The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jawbone to your skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. Disorders of the TMJ (TMD) can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.
The exact cause of TMD can be difficult to pinpoint. It can be caused by genetics, arthritis or injury to your jaw. Some people who have jaw pain also tend to clench or grind their teeth, although many people who clench or grind their teeth never develop TMJ disorders.
Signs and symptoms of TMD may include:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw and temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around the ears
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
- Locking of the jaw joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
- Click or grating noises and sensations in the jaw
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
You may be so used to these symptoms that you don’t even think of them most of the time! But when you do, you realize how much energy the pain and discomfort can use up during the day.
Stop Masking Your TMJ Pain with Medications
Dr. Fernandez looks at the relationship between your teeth, jaws, and skull to check if they are aligned appropriately. Her philosophy is called centric relation occlusion. She may use X-rays or suggest MRI imaging to get more detail of your jaw. She can help relieve your symptoms with a variety of gentle, non-invasive techniques. If you also grind your teeth, she may also fit you with a mouthguard to wear at night. In some cases, she may suggest orthodontia to help correct your bite and refer you to a trusted professional.
You can also try some techniques on your own that can help relieve or prevent your symptoms:
- Avoid yawning if possible, as well as yelling, singing, or anything else that requires opening your mouth wide
- Keep your teeth slightly apart as much as you can. This will help keep your jaw relaxed and avoid teeth clenching or grinding
- Warm compresses and/or medication such as muscle relaxants may help relieve tension in your jaws
- A TENS unit delivers low-level electric impulses to the affected area. It can help relax the muscles of your jaw.
Be sure to ask Dr. Fernandez if any of these suggestions could help you.