Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) is a painful condition that affects the joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull. These are the joints that allow your jaw to open and close. Tenderness at the joints, pain and difficulty eating or speaking are signs you may have a TMJ disorder. 

Up to 10 million Americans experience TMJ disorders, disrupting their daily lives and causing pain and frustration.

TMJ Causes

Several things that affect your jaw joints, surrounding ligaments, and muscles can lead to TMJ, including:

  • Grinding and clenching your teeth
  • Arthritis in the TMJ
  • A displacement of the disc between the ball and the socket of the joint
  • Trauma to the joint areas
  • Stress
  • An improper bite

It is not always easy to pinpoint the exact cause of TMJ in individual patients. You may experience the disorder due to a combination of reasons that have a cumulative effect.

TMJ Symptoms

Several signs indicate that you or a loved one may have a TMJ disorder. A clicking sound when you chew or a grating sensation might be the first sign, but unless these are accompanied by pain or limited jaw movement, you may not need treatment. Pay attention to other symptoms, including:

  • Facial pain
  • Jaw joint locking
  • Pain in and near your ears
  • Pain in one or both jaw joints
  • Jaw tenderness and pain
  • Pain or difficulty when chewing food

You may not experience all of these symptoms, and they may come and go. If you experience them constantly, it is time to take steps toward TMJ treatment.

TMJ Treatment

You can do several things to alleviate the pain of TMJ yourself. Be mindful of keeping your jaw in the resting position as often as possible. Avoid chewing gum, yelling, or other activities that cause your jaw joints to open wider.

Cold compresses can minimize your pain and swelling. Hot compresses relax your joint muscles and increase blood flow. Don’t use a compress for more than 15 minutes; keep a cloth between the compress and your skin. 

Jaw exercises can also treat TMJ by helping increase your jaw mobility. Combine these exercises with reducing your stress levels to have the most significant impact. Make a list of bad habits to avoid, such as biting your nails or grinding your teeth. It will be useful to have a list of these habits handy to provide information to your specialist if you need more treatment.

If your TMJ is chronic, talk to an orthodontist. The team at Hansen Orthodontics is experienced in treating TMJ and can make specific recommendations to reduce your joint pain. We may recommend compresses and pain relievers. But if you need more advanced treatment, our team is also ready to fit you with a mouthguard, retainer, or orthodontic appliance to free you from the pain and frustration of TMJ.

Visit Your Las Vegas Orthodontist

If you think you have TMJ or want to address other problems, such as a crooked smile, contact Hansen Orthopedics today. We proudly serve the Las Vegas Valley area with four locations ready to serve you at a place convenient for you.