Three Tips for Managing TMJ Pain
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Suffering From TMJ Pain? Here’s What to Do
If you have TMJ pain, you understand how doing simple things—such as eating, laughing, or talking—can cause you great discomfort. TMJ is a debilitating condition that has no cure; however, with proper maintenance and treatment, people can live completely normal, pain-free lives. If you or a loved one are suffering from TMJ pain and are seeking answers, we can help you. Keep reading to learn more about our top three tips for dealing with TMJ pain, as well as how to seek the proper TMJ treatment for your condition to stop the pain altogether.
What is TMJ?
Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are a group of more than 30 conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement. “TMDs” refers to the disorders, and “TMJ” refers only to the temporomandibular joint itself. People have two TMJs; one on each side of the jaw. You can feel them by placing your fingers in front of your ears and opening your mouth.
There are three main classes of TMDs:
- Disorders of the joints, including disc disorders.
- Disorders of the muscles used for chewing (masticatory muscles).
- Headaches associated with a TMD.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research classifies TMD by the following:
- Myofascial pain. This is the most common form of TMD. It results in discomfort or pain in the fascia (connective tissue covering the muscles) and muscles that control jaw, neck, and shoulder function.
- Internal derangement of the joint. This means a dislocated jaw or displaced disk (cushion of cartilage between the head of the jaw bone and the skull) or injury to the condyle (the rounded end of the jaw bone that articulates with the temporal skull bone).
- Degenerative joint disease. This includes osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw joint.
Symptoms of TMJ
It is important to know that sounds (such as clicking or popping) without pain in the TMJs are common, are considered normal, and don’t need treatment, according to the National Institute of Health. However, the following symptoms may signal a TMD:
- Pain in the chewing muscles and/or jaw joint (most common symptom).
- Pain that spreads to the face or neck.
- Jaw stiffness.
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw.
- Painful clicking, popping, or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth.
- Ringing in the ears, hearing loss, or dizziness.
- A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together.
The most common TMD complaint is migraine headache accompanied by jaw, head, neck, and/or shoulder pain. Migraine headaches usually start in the forehead, temples, or back of the head. Those who clench or grind their teeth may also develop migraine-like headaches. Although the majority of migraines and TMJ headaches have various causes, they all have one thing in common: dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint of the jaw.
Most migraine headaches have two common attributes:
- Tenderness in the muscles of the jaw, head, neck, and face; these “hot spots” in the muscles—called trigger points—create pain that causes migraine headaches and referral pain patterns
- Clenching of the teeth (or bruxism)
What Causes TMJ?
According to the National Institute of Health, injury to the jaw or temporomandibular joint can lead to some TMDs, but in most cases, the exact cause is not clear. For many people, symptoms seem to start without obvious reason. Recent research suggests a combination of genes, psychological and life stressors, and how someone perceives pain may play a part in why a TMD starts and whether it will be long-lasting. Because TMDs are more common in women than in men, researchers are exploring whether the differences in TMJ structure and mechanics between females and males may play a role.
Sometimes the main cause is excessive strain on the jaw joints and the muscle group that controls chewing, swallowing, and speech. This strain may be a result of bruxism. This is the habitual, involuntary clenching or grinding of the teeth. But trauma to the jaw, the head, or the neck may cause TMD. Arthritis and displacement of the jaw joint disks can also cause TMD pain. In other cases, another painful medical condition, such as fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome, may overlap with or worsen the pain of TMD. A recent National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research study identified clinical, psychological, sensory, genetic, and nervous system factors that may put a person at higher risk of developing chronic TMD.
Three Tips for Managing TMJ Pain
Living with day-to-day jaw pain can be very difficult and affect many areas of one’s life. As such, it is important to make sure you maintain proper care of your jaw and seek treatment for TMJ so that you can live a life free of TMJ pain. Resting your jaw, making yourself comfortable, and getting proper TMJ treatment are the best ways you can manage living with TMJ pain.
Rest Your Jaw
TMJ pain is due to fatigued, overworked, or misaligned jaw muscles. As such, it is important to rest your jaw as much as possible so that you do not over-aggravate your jaw muscles. Some of the ways you can rest your jaw include:
- Avoid certain activities and foods. Some of the activities and foods you should avoid or reduce if you suffer from TMJ pain include yawning; yelling; eating very crunchy or hard foods; eating foods that require taking large bites, such as burgers; foods that require prolonged chewing; and chewing gum.
- Note bad habits. You may be worsening your TMJ pain and not even know it by having a few particular bad habits. These include resting your jaw in your hand, biting your nails, biting your lips, and clenching or grinding your teeth in your sleep.
- Reduce your stress. Stress can cause your muscles to tense up, including your jaw, shoulders, neck, and back. Reducing your stress, or managing your stress, can help alleviate TMJ symptoms. Meditation, yoga, self-care, and other stress-reducing techniques are important to practice while experiencing TMJ pain.
Make Yourself Comfortable
Dealing with TMJ pain every day is difficult, so one of the best things you can do to manage your pain is to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Some of the ways you can do that include:
- Use a hot/cold compress
- Maintain a proper resting position of your jaw, even if it feels weird
- Correct your posture so that you’re not slouched over; this can worsen TMJ pain
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers to take down inflammation
Get Proper TMJ Treatment
The best way to get rid of your TMJ pain for good is to seek proper TMJ treatment. As mentioned earlier in this blog, the cause of TMJ pain varies widely from person to person. It is important to find out exactly what the cause of your particular TMJ pain is so that it can be treated properly with an individualized treatment plan.
As a highly trained dentist in the treatment of TMD, Dr. Martin Gorman has spent years learning and practicing the most advanced technology and research to bring relief to TMD patients. The heart of our practice is to help you find freedom from TMJ and related symptoms—especially TMJ tension headaches and migraine headaches.
Dr. Gorman’s firm commitment to his patients is to provide relief from migraine headaches, teeth grinding, jaw popping and clicking, and ringing in ears, as well as any jaw, face, head, or neck pain related to TMJ. His approach is a comprehensive program for treating all TMJ issues.
Understanding TMJ Treatment
Effectively addressing TMJ disorders involves the treatment of three factors. They include:
- Incorrect bite alignment (occlusion)
- Incoordination between the muscles and joints of the jaw, head, neck, and teeth
- Management of stress imbalance through at-home care
These components all work together and inform each other, so the likelihood of successful treatment decreases when your TMJ dentist or doctor is not addressing all three parts.
When you visit our practice for TMJ treatment, Dr. Gorman will start with a complete in-office assessment, including a computer evaluation of head/neck/biting forces and their relationship to healthy muscle and joint positioning. Using this information, he can construct a customized oral appliance designed to correct bite alignment and any imbalances between the muscles and joints. In addition, the appliance makes clenching the teeth almost impossible, helping alleviate pain and pressure associated with stress-related clenching throughout the day. Depending on your unique needs, Dr. Gorman may also incorporate co-therapies such as cranial adjustments, chiropractic adjustments, myofunctional therapy, and others to treat the exact cause(s) of your TMJ and achieve the most successful resolution of your symptoms.
TMJ Treatment with Gorman Health and Wellness
Something you may not know about TMJ is that it can lead to sleep apnea. If you are suffering from both TMJ and sleep apnea, you will require specialized treatment from a TMJ treatment specialist.
Dr. Gorman is a part of the breathing wellness movement, which aims to increase awareness and improve treatment for sleep-related airway conditions like sleep apnea. He has partnered with organizations focused on collaborating with dentists to apply the sciences of Craniofacial Epigenetics (the study of cranial modifications caused by gene expression as opposed to genetic code alteration) and Pneumopedics® (the practical application of oral appliance therapy and non-surgical airway remodeling) in the management of sleep apnea.
Together, the application of these sciences allows for underlying causes of airway obstruction to be treated in 98% of cases, resulting in a high success rate among sleep apnea patients. For every sleep apnea case at our practice, Dr. Gorman will gather patient data and determine the patient’s specific needs based on home sleep test results, dental impressions, CT scans, and images. Our state-of-the-art technology, paired with Dr. Gorman’s experience with sleep disorders, allows him to find the most effective treatment plan for each individual’s particular case, yielding improved daytime and nighttime breathing for the patient.
“I have been helping people suffering from Sleep Apnea with a non-invasive, clinically approved treatment method. This method has allowed my patients to sleep with far fewer events per hour, allowing them to get rid of their CPAP and BiPAP machines. Imagine not having to use one of those machines, getting back a much greater quality of life along with the benefits of being able to breathe better.” – Dr. Gorman.
For more information on Dr. Gorman and improving your TMJ symptoms, contact us today.