TMJ—or temporomandibular joint syndrome—is a common condition that can cause severe discomfort in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control your jaw. Studies suggest that roughly 12 percent of Americans are affected by TMJ. While some people may find the pain to be mild and tolerable, others may find that the clicking, popping, locking, and pain is too much, requiring them to seek professional treatment.
If you suffer from TMJ disorder and are considering treatment, we at Montana Dental Works would like to offer you this brief guide on the condition. In addition to being Kalispell’s go-to dental office—offering both cosmetic and general dental service—our dentists also have extensive experience treating TMJ. Learn more about our TMJ treatment, and call us today to schedule your appointment.
What Causes TMJ?
Pinpointing the exact cause of an individual’s TMJ is quite difficult. This is because there are a number of factors—genetics, jaw injuries, dental health, arthritis, and more. Another part of what makes identifying the cause of this disorder so hard is that environmental factors have proven to be a big contributor as well. For example, violinists typically have a higher risk of developing TMJ than does the general population. The reason for this, of course, being that violinists hold an instrument under their jaws for long periods of time. Additionally, women are twice as likely to be affected by TMJ than are men.
Symptoms of TMJ
The most common and obvious indicator of TMJ is pain along with a limited range of motion. In addition, the following symptoms are often common for those suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder:
- Pain while chewing
- Ear pain
- Popping sounds in ears
- Pain around the temples
- Achy jaw muscles
- Jaw locking
- Difficulty sleeping
On the other hand, some people with TMJ dysfunctions experience little to no pain. In fact, studies suggest that around 25 percent of people with TMJ have no noticeable symptoms. While these people are not in pain, this can still be a problem because it is a condition that slowly deteriorates the joints around the jaw.
Fortunately, there are a wide variety of TMJ treatments available. While some may find that they can treat the condition at home, others may find that they need professional help. If you think that you may have TMJ, you should first consider visiting a doctor who can properly diagnose your pain.
At Montana Dental Works, we are experienced providers of TMJ treatment. When you come to us, your dentist will evaluate your condition and develop a course of treatment. More often than not, this treatment plan will begin with conservative treatments like mouth guards, self-care, physical therapy, etc. If the condition does not improve, more aggressive approaches will be considered. Such approaches might include surgery and/or joint injections. Ultimately, the prescribed treatment will vary from patient to patient. At Montana Dental Works, we strive to make our treatment plans as individually tailored as possible, giving us the best chance of accomplishing lasting pain relief.
According to a study published in the Journal of Dental Research, TMJ exercises are more effective for increasing your range of motion than using mouth guards. There are a variety of exercises you can do at home. Check out this healthline.com article for a detailed list of some of the exercises—it includes helpful video clips!
Dental Care Tips for Those With TMJ
If you have temporomandibular joint syndrome, you may find it difficult to perform basic dental hygiene—flossing, brushing teeth, getting routine cleanings, etc. If this is the case for you, consider these tips taken from the TMJ Association.
- Use soft-bristle toothbrush
- Use antiseptic mouth rinse daily
- Alert dentists and staff when you experience pain during a dental treatment
- Apply ice after treatment or pain
- Discuss with your dentist alternatives to flossing
TMJ is not something to be ignored. If you have yet to get your condition diagnosed, make an appointment with your dentists. If you are in the Kalispell area, come to Montana Dental Works. Our staff is deeply committed to providing professional, affordable, and caring dental care.