The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is another name for the joint where your lower jaw meets your skull. Used in eating and speaking, it’s a vital part of everyday life. As such, when it starts causing pain and discomfort, it can be a significant inconvenience. However, how does this essential joint work? And more importantly, what happens when you need TMJ treatment?
How Your TMJ Works
Your TMJ is more versatile than most joints in your body. It can move up and down, front to back, and side to side, allowing for complex chewing, speaking, and yawning motions. The muscles in your face control these movements.
A cartilage disc in the joint socket absorbs the pressure of these repetitive movements, preventing damage. However, a variety of things can lead to discomfort in the jaw, including:
- Displaced disc
- Clenching and grinding the jaw
- Misalignment of teeth
Any of these factors can lead to pain as well as clicking or popping to develop. Dentists and orthodontists refer to this as a temporomandibular disorder (TMD). If you develop a TMD, you may need TMJ treatment.
What is TMD?
TMD is actually more of a blanket term rather than a specific condition. There are many different types of TMDs, each with a variety of causes. Symptoms of a TMD include the following:
- A stuck jaw, open or closed
- Popping, cracking, or clicking when you move your jaw
- Pain or sensitivity in front of your ears
- Facial muscle spasms
- Headaches that originate in front of the ear
TMDs can be acute and last only a few weeks, as is generally the case when trauma is the cause. However, they can also be a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment.
If you suspect that you need TMJ treatment, your orthodontist will examine your jaw for the above symptoms. They will pay close attention to the way your jaw moves, as well as any evidence for clenching and grinding on your teeth.
TMD Treatment Options
There are a variety of treatment options for TMDs. Of course, the cause of your TMD will determine which treatments will work best. They usually respond well to simple interventions like anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, physical therapy, counseling to reduce stress, bite adjustment, or a soft diet.
In more severe cases, surgical options may offer relief. You should work with your orthodontist to determine which treatment options are right for you.
Preventing the Need for TMD Treatment
In many cases, TMDs are preventable. Avoid developing jaw pain by sticking to the following guidelines:
- Relax your face with lips together, teeth apart
- Avoid grinding your teeth
- Avoid constant gum chewing
- Don’t cradle a phone between your head and shoulder – use a headset or hold the phone to your ear
- Chew food evenly on both sides of your mouth
- Do not sit with your chin rested on your hand
- Practice good posture – keep your head up, back straight, and shoulders squared
Of course, if you still need TMJ treatment in Houston, help is available.
Find TMJ Treatment in Houston
With a variety of options for TMJ treatment in Houston, you may not know where to turn. Fortunately, G Orthodontics features two convenient locations and a friendly staff ready to meet your needs. If you believe you may have a TMD, reach out to either our Pearland office at 713-677-2258 or our Houston office at 832-847-6749 for an appointment. You can also use our convenient make an appointment form.