TMJ disorder afflicts millions of Americans and Canadians, of all ages and walks of life. But what is TMJ and why does it affect so many people? Knowing a little bit about this medical condition can help you to manage its symptoms until you can see your dentist in Scarborough.
The Hinge that Makes Your Mouth Work
Your mouth is one of the most important parts of your body. It’s essential for digestion, communication, and even respiration. At the heart of this amazing system is the temporomandibular joint, or “TMJ” for short. Comprised of muscle, nerves and bone, it works for you faithfully every day, year in and year out.
Like any mechanical system, however, the TMJ can suffer from overuse. When this happens, TMJ disorder is often the result. Symptoms of this problem can include:
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth. In severe cases, performing simple tasks such as speaking can become almost impossible.
- Pain or tightness in or around the jaw. This is caused by inflamed muscles or nerves. Many patients notice this problem upon awakening, due to nighttime teeth clenching.
- TMJ disorder is a strong possibility if your headaches come after eating or speaking.
- Nervous tension. TMJ and emotional stress are often strongly linked.
- A clicking or popping sensation. You may notice this in your ears when you eat or speak.
- Cracked, worn, or painful teeth. Persistent TMJ can cause a host of tooth-related problems.
Can Arthritis Cause TMJ Disorder?
Many patients suspect that their TMJ symptoms may have something to do with arthritis. However, this is true in only a small number of cases. Only a qualified medical professional can diagnose the cause of TMJ disorder.
What Your Dentist Can Do for TMJ Disorder
Make an appointment to see your dentist right away if you notice any of these warning signs. He or she will perform an oral examination to determine the cause of the problem. If it turns out that you’re suffering from TMJ disorder, then possible treatment options include the following:
- Anti-inflammatory pain relievers. These can both relieve discomfort and ease inflammation.
- Muscle relaxers. These are usually only needed in severe cases.
- Stretching exercises. For example, your dentist may recommend slow, controlled opening and closing of your mouth to stretch muscles and encourage proper range of motion.
- Antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications. These can help to address the psychological components of TMJ disorder.
- Lifestyle changes. TMJ disorder is usually related to unresolved stress or similar problems. Your dentist may recommend systematic relaxation, engaging in regular exercise, or seeking private counseling or group therapy.
- Dietary changes. Both caffeine consumption and tobacco use can cause or aggravate the effects of TMJ disorder.
Prospects for Recovery
Most patients are able to enjoy long-term relief from the symptoms of TMJ disorder. Achieving full recovery means following your dentist’s recommendations. Make an appointment to see him or her today; then get ready for a happier, healthier tomorrow.
About the Author
Dr. Arti Patel began her dental training at Kings College University in London, completing her studies after relocating to Ontario. She’s a proud member of the Ontario Dental Association and the Academy of General Dentistry. You can reach her office online or by calling 416-285-4545.