You may think you need to call your lawyer, but not in this case. If you find yourself experiencing jaw pain, or have a jaw that is locked open or closed, it may be time to call your dentist. You may be suffering from a disorder known as TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder).
The temporomandibular joint is the hinge joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. It’s the joint that allows you to chew, talk and yawn. If your jaw joint isn’t working properly, you may experience headaches, shoulder pain, jaw pain, earaches, neck pain or your jaw may lock in an open or closed position. There are many causes of TMD?such as a misaligned bite, grinding your teeth, dislocation of the disc in the joint, missing or damaged teeth, injury or stress.
Step #1: Diagnosis
If you are having any of these symptoms, your dentist may be able to help you. They’ll ask you about your symptoms, verify your health history, and examine you from the shoulders up. They will listen for any clicking sounds in your jaw and check to see if your jaw joint is locking. They may also take x-rays or order a MRI or CAT scan. Based on this information they will be able to provide a diagnosis determine what type of treatment is best for you.
Step #2: Treatment
There are two types of treatment, surgical and nonsurgical. Surgery is usually viewed as a last resort or saved for the most severe cases. Cold packs and anti-inflammatory drugs help give immediate relief of shoulder pain, headaches or jaw pain. Physical therapy and chiropractic care are options that involves doing various exercises to strengthen your jaw muscle, and improve your range of motion. You may also learn some relaxation techniques.
If you have any missing or damaged teeth, porcelain veneers, crowns, bridges and implants are effective treatments, they’ll replace what’s missing to balance and stabilize your jaw. Orthotics can improve the alignment of your teeth to relieve the stress that put on jaw muscles to compensate for misalignment.
Different treatments for different causes
To get the correct treatment, it’s critical to get a proper diagnosis. To do that, you’ll need to investigate further. To help you, I’ve devised this simple on-line TMJ questionnaire to help you determine if your TMJ is at the root of your discomfort. It’s a great first step to get you on the road to recovery and back to pain-free living.