My Jaw Gets Stuck. Is It TMJ?

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If your jaw is feeling tight and uncomfortable, or if it feels like it occasionally gets stuck, there is a good chance that you are suffering from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. The intensity of your pain can vary: you may feel throbbing or it might just be a dull ache. These feelings can get worse when you chew or yawn. Understanding what causes TMJ and identifying whether you have it are the first steps in bringing you relief.

What is TMJ?

When a problem gets in the way of the complex system of muscles, bones, and joints that need to work together harmoniously, it can result in TMJ disorder. TMJ, more officially known as TMD, is a disorder of the jaw muscles, TMJ, and facial nerves. More specifically, the TMJ connects hinge actions with sliding motions, allowing you to chew, talk, and rotate your jaw. Various parts of the bones that interact in the TMJ are coated with cartilage, separated by a small shock-absorbing disk intended to keep these movements smooth.

Unfortunately, medical professionals aren’t 100% certain what causes TMDsymptoms. It can be unclear what provokes this condition, and the distinction between cause and symptom is just as ambiguous. However, the five most common causes of TMD are when:

  • Your disk moves out of its proper alignment or erodes.
  • Your joint’s cartilage becomes damaged by arthritis.
  • Your joint becomes damaged by an impact of some kind.
  • You are under severe amounts of stress, which is causing you to clench your teeth.
  • You grind your teeth frequently, placing excess stress on the TMJ.

Signs that you might have TMD.

Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:

  • Jaw popping or clicking sounds.
  • Difficulty opening or closing your jaw, in some cases, the jaw locks in one position or the other.
  • Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing.
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth, referred to as bruxism.
  • Pain or tenderness in your jaw.
  • Aching facial, tooth, or jaw pain or facial muscle soreness.
  • Digestive issues.
  • Frequent headaches or migraines.
  • Neck and shoulder pain.
  • Dizziness.
  • Ringing ears, referred to as tinnitus.
  • Aching pain in and around your ear.
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers.
  • Waking up in pain from a sore jaw or insomnia.

How your dentist can help you treat your TMJ.

Many people think that dentists can only treat your teeth, providing you with dental cleanings and oral examinations to keep your smile white and help diagnose early oral cancer. But, the truth is that a skilled neuromuscular dentist, particularly one like Dr. Alhadef in North Dallas, Texas, looks at your mouth and jaw as part of a more extensive system. Dr. Alhadef can help you diagnose your TMJ disorder and provide various treatments to bring you comfort. He can also refer you to a physician for further diagnosis to treat any broader issues contributing to your jaw pain if that is required.

Typical treatments for TMJ

Lifestyle Modification

Sometimes, your TMJ can resolve itself if you make some lifestyle changes. Doing jaw exercises as suggested by your dentist, practicing mindfulness to reduce stress and relax, eating a diet consisting of softer foods, modifying your yawn, using heating pads and ice packs, and jaw massage can help relieve jaw pain and strain.

Bite Correction

Bite guards, also referred to as mouthguards or nightguards, are the most widely recommended treatment for mild to moderate symptoms of TMD. These splints can lessen your TMJ pain, and the risk of long-term side effects is minimal.

Injections

Corticosteroid injections into the jaw can be highly effective in providing temporary relief from your TMJ symptoms. These injections are minimally invasive and can be administered in less than 30 minutes. Botox, a neurotoxin that paralyzes the muscles in your jaw, is another injection option that can be used to treat TMJ symptoms.

Arthroscopy and arthrocentesis

If the injections, bite correction, or lifestyle modification are unsuccessful, your doctor or dentist can recommend arthroscopy and arthrocentesis. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure performed by an orthopedic surgeon to assist with diagnosing TMJ disorders. With this treatment, a small fiber-optic camera is inserted into your joint so that your surgeon can investigate what is causing your TMJ symptoms.

Arthrocentesis is used for both diagnosis and treatment. In this case, a small needle and syringe is used to drain fluid out of your joint. As the fluid is drained out, your physician can better pinpoint the cause of your joint swelling.

Surgery

Surgery is usually the last resort and is used when the jaw, or parts of your jaw joint, need to be repaired or repositioned. TMJ surgery takes place under general anesthetic and has a longer recovery time. In extreme cases, your TMJ may need to be removed or replaced.

When to see your dentist for diagnosis and treatment of your TMJ Disorder.

If you are experiencing persistent pain or tenderness in your jaw, it is time to request an appointment with your dentist. If you can’t open or close your jaw completely, your doctor, dentist, or a TMJ specialist will want to assess the situation and discuss the right course of action to treat your condition. It’s important to know that you don’t need to live with TMJ pain. Your dentist is skilled in treating all kinds of TMJ pain and can work with you to find the right solution for you.

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