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How TMJ Affects Your Whole Mouth

As dentists, we talk a lot about common oral health issues like cavities and gum disease. However, we also want to make sure everyone knows about less common problems such as TMJ disorder. If you’ve been experiencing any pain when chewing or while opening and closing your mouth, you could be having TMJ symptoms. What is TMJ? Let the experts at Mettler and Griego Family Dentistry explain. 

What is TMJ? 

TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint in your jaw. This joint acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jaw bone to your skull on either side of your head. The TMJ allows you to open and close your mouth so you can eat, talk, yawn, and brush your teeth.

Just like your knee, elbow, or any other joint in your body, the temporomandibular joint can get injured or deteriorate over time. People with arthritis sometimes experience pain in this joint, and people who grind their teeth—a dental issue known as bruxism—can injure it. 

Damaging or injuring the TMJ causes temporomandibular joint disorder, known as TMD. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, between 11 to 12 million American adults experience temporomandibular joint pain. And, TMD is twice as likely to happen in women than in men because women have estrogen receptors located in their jaws.

What are the symptoms of TMJ disorder?

If your TMJ is not working properly, you may experience a variety of symptoms, including: 

  • A clicking or popping sound when you open and close your jaw
  • Tenderness at the top of your jaw and location of the TMJ
  • Pain in your jaw that radiates to other areas of your face or neck
  • Headaches
  • Ringing in the ears (known as tinnitus)
  • Inability to open your mouth all the way
  • Pain when chewing food
  • Change to tooth alignment
  • “Locked” jaw or a jaw that will not open or close

Can TMJ make your teeth hurt?

Yes—TMJ disorder can most definitely cause dental pain. When you think about it, nerves connect your teeth to every other part of your mouth and jaw. When one area of your mouth or jaw hurts, that pain radiates to your teeth, leading to tooth pain. TMJ disorder also causes tooth misalignment, so your biting pattern will be off, making your teeth and gums sensitive and irritable

How is TMJ disorder treated? 

Your dentist can perform a thorough examination of your jaw to check for TMJ disorder. This exam may include x-rays or scans to reveal the extent of the damage to your temporomandibular joint and the rest of your jaw. If the diagnosis is TMJ disorder, there are a few treatment options available. 

Treatments for TMJ include: 

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications such as muscle relaxants, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatories
  • Hot and cold therapy
  • Physical therapy exercises to strengthen and stretch out the jaw muscles 
  • Mouth guards to stop teeth grinding at night
  • Surgical interventions for more serious cases

Relieving TMJ Tooth Pain in Peoria, Arizona

Having a fully operational jaw and a mouth that is free from pain is important for living your healthiest life. TMJ disorder impedes your ability to eat, talk, and laugh with ease. TMJ disorder can also lead to serious complications that may require surgery. 

If you have further questions regarding TMJ disorder, or if you believe you may be experiencing TMJ symptoms, call Mettler and Griego Family Dentistry today at 623-888-8792 to schedule an appointment

Photo by Mental Health America (MHA) from Pexels