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Suffering from tense jaw pain and facial discomfort is something that you should never ignore or live with on a daily basis. If the pain you’re experiencing affects your daily life, it could be your body’s way of telling you you’re one of the millions of people suffering from TMJ disorder.
Determining if you’re suffering from head, jaw, or sinus pain or if your discomfort is stemming from TMJ is a first step towards finding much-needed relief. Take this simple at-home test to help you discover if your pain should be assessed by a professional.
Common Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
When everyday activities like eating or talking become uncomfortable due to frequent jaw pain, finding relief is critical. Your jaw discomfort may be due to a combination of factors, including genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury. Experiencing jaw pain doesn’t necessarily mean you have a TMJ disorder; however, a healthcare professional should always address any reoccurring discomfort that’s impacting your life.
Common signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:
- Pain or tenderness of the jaw, cheeks, ears, or neck
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around the ear
- Headaches or migraines
- Difficulty chewing
- Pain while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the jaw
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- A clicking or grating sound when using the jaw muscles
- A tired feeling in the face
- A change of facial expressions
- A change in how the lower and upper teeth fit together
Checking Your Temporomandibular Joint
A TMJ disorder can result if any part of the TMJ system of muscles, tissues, ligaments, and bones dislocates or becomes inflamed. You can perform a simple self-diagnosis by using this test, suggested by James Friction, DDS, a professor in the division of TMJ disorders and orofacial pain at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry.
While opening your jaw slightly, place a finger over the joint in front of your ear, and then open wide until you can feel the joint move. If you feel the joint click or if it’s tender when you gently press, you may have a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
When to See a Professional For Chronic Jaw Pain
If you speculate you have TMJ disorder, talk to your primary care physician or dentist right away. Either healthcare professional can effectively check for symptoms and help you develop a treatment plan to find some much-needed relief. You may consider visiting a TMJ disorder specialist local to you if the problem persists after treatment.
To diagnose and determine the actual cause of your discomfort, your dental professional will perform the following:
- Take x-rays of your jaw.
- Gently explore areas around your jaw to pinpoint the source of pain.
- Evaluate the motion of your jaw.
- Examine your bite and check its alignment to see how your teeth come together.
- Listen for sounds that indicate TMJ problems, such as clicking.
How We Can Help You Find Relief
In many cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders are temporary and can be alleviated with self-managed care and non-surgical treatments. Since the TMJ is a joint, with tissue and muscle, like any other in the body, the treatments are similar to how you would treat any other inflamed muscle or joint. Rest and relaxation of the muscle are vital techniques in treating TMJ disorders.
Finding relief from jaw pain requires implementing specific at-home techniques, and your dentist may recommend incorporating the following into your daily routine:
- Rest the joint by eating soft foods that require minimal chewing.
- Avoid chewing gum or any other foods that can exhaust the muscle.
- Apply ice at the beginning of the day and later utilize heat packs to decrease muscle inflammation.
- Use a different pillow to allow for proper neck support while you sleep.
- Practice jaw exercises to stretch and relax the muscles.
- Utilize over-the-counter pain medications or anti-inflammatories to provide short-term relief when symptoms flare up.
- Practice stress reduction techniques such as meditation or yoga to relax your body and mind.
A simple at-home test can never replace an actual diagnosis by a professional. If you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort radiating from your jaw, schedule a TMJ consultation appointment with Hoffman Dental Care.