What Is TMJ Pain and How Can Your Dentist Help Stop It?

Jaw pain is no laughing matter, especially when it puts a damper on your laughing. Pain when laughing or even opening your mouth could be a symptom of a condition called Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder, or TMD. It could indicate that you’re wearing down the joint between your lower jaw and your skull. 

Your jaw was meant to move a certain way. If your teeth and jaws are out of alignment, it could wear down your joint. But there are ways to correct your jaw issues, and Endicott Dental has TMJ treatment plans that can help!

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What Is TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw (mandible) with your upper jaw (maxillary) and skull. It’s a hinge joint, meaning it’s designed mainly to move up and down. However, our jaw joints have some flexibility, allowing us to move the jaw sideways slightly to grind our food between our teeth. 

Despite this flexibility, the teeth and jaws are designed to fit a certain way at rest and while chewing. When they don’t, it can cause TMJ neck pain, TMJ headaches, jaw pain, tooth erosion, TMJ ear pain, TMJ tooth pain, and jaw popping.

What Causes TMJ Pain?

A misaligned jaw or misaligned teeth can wear down your temporomandibular joint and strain the ligament around it, causing pain and popping. What can cause TMD? Here are a few possibilities: 

  • Misaligned bite
  • Missing teeth
  • Habitual teeth grinding
  • Joint trauma from injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Joint erosion
  • Joint or jaw birth abnormalities

TMJ Disorder can get worse over time. That’s why it’s best to see a dentist when symptoms first appear. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain when chewing
  • Pain while laughing
  • Clicking or popping while laughing
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Neck or face pain
  • Earaches
  • Headaches
  • Swelling on the side of the face
  • Popping, clicking, or grating of the joint
  • Sensitive teeth

TMJ Disorder can also affect your teeth. A misaligned jaw can cause your teeth to connect or rub in places where they aren’t meant to make contact. This can wear down your tooth’s enamel, the hard outer shell that protects the tooth’s living interior. 

Weakened enamel can make your teeth more susceptible to tooth decay, cracks, chips, and breaks. 

TMJ pain can also occur because of certain habits like bruxism or teeth grinding. Grinding or clenching your jaw while sleeping or even consciously puts excess pressure on your jaw joints. 

The sooner your TMJ Disorder is addressed, the more you minimize the damage it can do to your jaw and teeth.

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How Can My Dentist Help My TMJ Pain?

At Endicott Dental, we believe you shouldn’t have to live in pain. We offer several solutions to reduce or eliminate your TMJ pain. How long does it take to treat TMJ pain? It depends on the severity of your case, but some patients start feeling relief within a week or so. 

Oral Medications

We start by reducing your pain before and during treatment. We can recommend a regiment of over-the-counter medications that will reduce your TMJ pain. We also recommend using an ice pack on your jaw for a few minutes each day if the pain is severe or persistent.

Oral Appliances

One way to treat TMD is to treat TMJ-related problems, such as teeth grinding, snoring, and sleep apnea. We have several oral appliances that can address these issues. 

Snore guards and night guards work in similar ways. Both reposition the jaw when you sleep to prevent snoring or teeth grinding and reduce pressure on your jaw. 

People with sleep apnea often snore because their jaw moves backward when they sleep. A snore guard keeps the jaw forward, preventing the airway from being obstructed. It also reduces that added pressure on your jaw by keeping it more in line with where it should be.

A night guard is used for those who clench or grind their teeth in their sleep. It provides a barrier between the upper and lower jaws that keeps you from moving your teeth back and forth and putting pressure on them. That tooth pressure also puts pressure on your jaws. The night guard prevents both.

Therapeutic Splints

Therapeutic splits fit around the lower jaw and tie behind the head to limit your jaw movement, usually while you sleep. This prevents teeth grinding, tongue thrusting, snoring, and other night habits. It also can relieve the pain of your TMJ. 

Braces or Clear Aligners Treatment

Misaligned teeth make it harder to chew your food properly. That means the jaw must make moves it wasn’t designed to do. This extended movement can wear the joint down over time. That causes inflammation in the tissue in and around the joint, which becomes painful. 

Braces and Invisalign clear aligners put your teeth back where they belong, making chewing easier and relieving that excess jaw pressure that damages the joint. TMJ braces treatment can also fix the misaligned bite that’s putting pressure on your jaw. 

Endicott Dental offers braces treatment in Broken Arrow, OK, as well as Invisalign treatment. We can take care of your jaw pain and give you a beautiful smile all in the same place!

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Tips for Relieving TMJ Pain

Treating TMJ Disorder takes time, which is why we offer several options to relieve your pain. We also can suggest a few TMJ exercises to build up your jaw muscles and reduce your jaw stress and pain. 

  • Break bad chewing habits. Don’t chew on objects such as pens, pencils, fingernails, hair, ice, etc. These things put added stress on your jaw and joints. 
  • Reduce your intake of hard foods. Avoid hard foods as much as possible, such as tortilla chips, hard candies, hard pretzels, and other super crunchy foods.
  • Don’t chew gum. Avoid chewing gum while your jaw is inflamed, especially sugary gum that turns hard the more you chew it. If you must chew gum, do it for only a few minutes. Don’t spend all day chewing gum!
  • Exercise your jaw. Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth and relax your jaw to let your joint rest. Build up your jaw muscles by holding your fingers on each joint and slowly opening and closing your mouth. Your fingers will keep your jaw aligned and build the muscles correctly.

These ideas may help reduce your TMJ pain while you’re undergoing treatment. 

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TMJ Pain Relief in Broken Arrow, OK

Are you experiencing the symptoms of TMJ Disorder? Request an appointment with Endicott Dental in Broken Arrow, OK, for a TMJ consultation. We can evaluate your TMJ problems and determine what treatment is best for you. Remember, you don’t have to live in pain — let us help!

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