Here at Heroes Dental we love to celebrate the holidays with all the heroes that walk through our doors. However, we also know how stressful this time of the year can be with holiday shopping, travel, get-togethers, and catching up on all your end-of-year responsibilities (like visiting the dentist).
While stress around this time of the year can lead to the occasional headache, if you’ve been suffering from chronic facial pain, jaw pain, headaches, or earaches for some time now, it’s a safe bet that your problems are more than just some holiday tension.
Did you know that more than 15% of American adults suffer from aches and pains related to their temporomandibular joints (TMJ)? These joints, which are located on the sides of your head, work together with a system of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones, to help you chew and speak.
Individuals who experience any chronic discomfort in their TMJ may be suffering from temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Problems associated with the jaw joint can range from slight discomfort to severe pain. Understanding some of the basic information about TMD can help you to pursue the proper course of treatment.
What are some of the symptoms of TMD?
A TMJ is a “ball and socket” joint that allows for vertical and horizontal movement in the lower jaw. One of the most frequently noted symptoms is a clicking sound at or around the joint. It is estimated that while one-third of all people have this click, most do not suffer from any associated pain, and therefore do not require treatment.
However, there is reason for concern is when that click is accompanied by pain or a feeling that the jaw is stuck in place, whether opened or closed. If you have chronically experienced this symptom, along with the following signs, then you should seek medical attention to help remedy the issue:
- Headaches and neck aches.
- Tenderness around the jaw muscles.
- Pain in the jaw that occurs mostly in the morning or late afternoon.
- Pain when chewing, biting, or yawning.
- Sensitive teeth when no other dental problem can be identified.
- Sharp pain in the TMJ itself.
What are some of the causes of TMD?
There are a number of reasons why certain individuals may become affected by TMD including:
- If the pain comes from the joint itself, this may be a sign of arthritis.
- If the pain is more intense in the morning and the jaw is stiff, this could be a sign of teeth clenching or grinding that occurs during sleep.
- Stress is thought to be another factor that affects TMD, usually due to unconscious teeth grinding or clenching.
- Physical tasks, such as constantly lifting heavy objects, can irritate TMD because of overuse of the jaw muscles.
- Additional causes of TMD include jaw dislocation or injury and improper bite.
Alongside these various causes of TMD, various studies have shown that the disorder affects twice as many women as men, especially those of childbearing age.
How is TMD treated?
While the pain symptoms previously mentioned may indicate a case of TMD, it is vital to first visit a dentist to ensure that the discomfort is not originating from another area of the body. A physical examination of your face and jaw, as well as x-rays and a cast of your teeth, can help provide useful information for diagnosing the disorder.
Depending on your specific situation, there are a number of treatment plans that may be recommended to you, including referral to a specialist in severe cases.
Your dentist may suggest one of the following options:
- In many cases, discomfort from TMD can be treated with simple self-care practices, including exercises that reduce teeth-clenching caused by stress.
- Taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as aspirin.
- Prescribing a nightguard to prevent grinding during sleep.
- Orthodontic treatment to fix poorly aligned teeth.
- In severe cases, patients may benefit from cortisone injections or lavage, which is a procedure that flushes debris from the joint.
You should also be aware that treatment approaches vary by dentist. Some dentists may prefer treatments that are less invasive such as the use of medication, massages, light stretching exercises to strengthen the joint muscles, or the use of ice and warming packs to relieve pain and relax the muscles. More invasive practices include orthodontic treatments, realignment processes, teeth crowning, and reshaping. If your dentist suggests an irreversible treatment, obtaining a reliable second opinion is recommended. While they may fix certain issues with the mouth structure, there is no guarantee that they will provide relief of TMD symptoms.
Heroes Dental is here for all of your dental needs.
Whether you’re experiencing serious issues with your TMJ or simply looking for a family-friendly dentist that can provide general dentistry services like teeth cleaning and pediatric tooth care, Heroes Dental is here for you.
Our team of experienced dentists and orthodontists can provide services in general dentistry, orthodontics, cosmetic, and pediatric care. Plus, our state-of-the-art offices in Laredo, Mission, and San Juan means you’ll be receiving quality dental care with cutting-edge technology.
So request an appointment with us today to receive the Heroes Dental superboost your teeth will love.