What do you know about the temporomandibular joint—aka, the TMJ? Unless you’re a dentist, too, you may not have been heard of it before.
When there’s something wrong with the TMJ, you’ll definitely feel it. The TMJ is a sliding hinge that connects your mandible (lower jawbone) to your skull. You have one on either side of your head. It’s a very important part of your body, as it is how you are able to speak and eat and sing and drink and, well, the list goes on.
Pain in your TMJ is called TMD, aka temporomandibular dysfunction. This can arise in a number of scenarios: You could have a cartilage disc that sits on top of the jaw joint. Or you could have irritation with the disc, the ligaments attached to the disc, or the muscles attached to the ligament. There could be problems with your bite alignment so that your jaws are sliding and stressing the muscles out.
It’s hard to know the exact cause until you see your dentist. But you can feel it yourself. The symptoms of TMD include:
- Clicking or popping noises in your jaw.
- Jaws that lock in the open or close position.
- Pain that exacerbates headaches and migraines.
To treat TMD, this is what your dentist would do:
Step 1: If there is no pain at all and you’re just experiencing clicking or popping, we don’t do anything about it. We recommend eating soft foods, practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, and avoiding habits like biting your nails. It usually gets better on its own with self-care.
Step 2: To help ease the pain, our first line of therapy would be medications, such as anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants.
Step 3: To help take the pressure off your teeth and muscles so that your body has a chance to heal itself, we would make you a mouthguard. Think of it as a cushion for your jawbone to help you stop teeth grinding.
Step 4: For the most extreme cases, we would pursue surgery, such as various injections or arthrocentesis, which is using a syringe to drain the liquid from the area. It could also involve surgery to repair the disc or mandible itself.
Don’t be afraid! Just make an appointment with your dentist to help form the best action plan for your TMD.
About Dr. Derek
He is not only Co-Founder of RiseWell. Dr. Derek Gatta is a partner at Dr Max & Dr Gatta PLLC in Boca Raton, Florida. If you are in the area, he is your go-to dentist!