Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is an incredibly complex joint located at the very edges of your cheeks that allows you to freely move your jaw. It allows you to perform a variety of activities such as speaking, eating, and yawning. Unfortunately, the complexity of this joint presents a downside—muscles, bones, and membranes can all become inflamed and damaged, leading to severe jaw pain with an underlying cause that's hard to pinpoint. TMJ disorders can be difficult to diagnose, but the severe pain that they cause can make it impossible to eat or sleep. How do you know if you may be suffering from a TMJ disorder? Read on for three common symptoms that can indicate your jaw pain is caused by and inflamed and sore temporomandibular joint.
1. Severe Pain When Opening or Closing Your Mouth
The most common symptom felt by those who have a TMJ disorder is severe joint pain. The pain will be at its most severe when you need to open your jaw very wide, such as when you're yawning or taking an extremely large bite of food. In some cases, the pain can be so severe that it prevents you from eating normally.
2. Popping, Clicking or Grinding Noises While Speaking or Chewing
Another common symptom of TMJ disorders is a popping, clicking, or grinding sound whenever you move your jaw. While this isn't always an indicator of a TMJ disorder, it can be a sign that the cause of your disorder is arthritis in the temporomandibular joint. With less cartilage in the joint due to arthritis, you'll hear bones clicking and scraping against one another whenever you move your jaw.
3. Frequent Headaches or Jaw Soreness in the Morning
If you frequently wake up with headaches or a sore jaw, you may be grinding your teeth at night—this can contribute to TMJ pain. People who grind or clench their teeth at night never give their TMJ a chance to rest or heal, since the joint is being used all throughout the night in addition to being used while speaking and eating during the day. This overuse can easily lead to fatigued muscles and severe TMJ pain.
Your dentist can prescribe you a special mouth guard called a mandibular advancement device that you wear at night. The mandibular advancement device forces your TMJ into a relaxed position, preventing you from grinding and clenching your teeth during the night and allowing your TMJ to relax and recover from its use throughout the day.
If you think that you have a TMJ disorder, it's important to schedule an appointment with a dentist for an examination. While there's no absolute criteria for determining whether or not someone has a TMJ disorder, a dentist will be able to examine the way your teeth come together when you bite down. People who suffer from TMJ disorders often have uneven bites—this contributes to developing a TMJ disorder because an uneven bite places excess stress on your temporomandibular joint, which can cause it to become damaged and inflamed. There are a number of treatments available for TMJ disorders, and your dentist will start with the ones that are least invasive and find out what works for you in order to reduce your jaw pain.
For more information, reach out to clinics like The Centre for Contemporary Dental Concepts.