TMJ and Bruxism
If you wake up with a headache or have chronic neck and shoulder pain throughout the day and don’t know the source, you might have a TMJ disorder. The TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, which connects the upper and lower jaws. This joint is responsible for letting you open and close your mouth comfortably. But when it is inflamed, problems occur, including chronic pain and difficulty opening and closing the mouth.
People who grind their teeth—known as bruxism—are also prone to TMJ disorders. This unconscious habit of teeth clenching can wear down the teeth, and because most people do it in their sleep, it’s a difficult habit to break.
Signs You Might Have a TMJ Disorder
A TMJ disorder, also called TMD, can show up differently in different people, so symptoms can vary widely. Some of the most common TMJ disorder complaints we get at our Chatham and Morristown, NJ area dental office include:
- A feeling that the jaw joint is stuck, making it difficult to chew, speak, or yawn
- A clicking sound from the joint when opening and closing the mouth
- Unexplained pain in the head, shoulder, and neck area
- Ringing in the ears
- Teeth that have become worn down from constant clenching
- An uneven bite
Treatment for TMJ Disorders
The first step in developing a treatment plan is to get an accurate diagnosis, which can be difficult. At our Chatham and Morristown, NJ dental office, Dr. Matthew Vaccaro will conduct a thorough examination to find out if the TMJ is indeed inflamed. Based on what he learns through an exam and x-ray, he will make treatment recommendations.
We like to start with the most conservative treatment recommendations at the beginning, to see if your body responds well. These might include giving the jaw some rest by reducing movement. For example, if you are a gum-chewer, we might recommend that you stop. You might want to choose to eat just soft foods for a while to see if that helps.
Other options for self-care include massaging the muscles around the inflamed joint or applying ice or moist heat to help reduce inflammation.
If these simple changes do not relieve your symptoms, Dr. Vaccaro might recommend a custom-made nightguard to keep you from clenching your teeth while you sleep. This is often all that is needed to get rid of TMJ symptoms. It will also protect your teeth from becoming further worn down.
Learn More about TMD and Bruxism
Don’t let chronic pain ruin your quality of life. Call Dr. Matthew Vaccaro today so he can conduct an examination and make an accurate diagnosis. He can suggest treatments that will help you get your life back. Call today!