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What is TMJ?

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a young child having his throat area examined

This is a joint that acts as a sliding hinge connecting the jawbone to your skull. You have a joint on each side that keeps everything in place, but there are some that have to deal with a disorder of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This can result in pain in the jaw joint and the muscles themselves that control the jaw movement. To understand this condition, let’s look further into what causes it and how to treat it.

What is TMJ?

The exact cause of TMJ depends on the person and at times might be difficult in figuring out. It could be due to several factors that could relate to genetics, any jaw injury you’ve received or arthritis. Those who deal with jaw pain may also be prone to grinding their teeth or clenching them.

The pain and discomfort with TMJ can be temporary and relieved with the help of self-care or non-surgical treatments. However, surgery is something that can be administered but it’s something that’s often seen as a last resort and all other avenues are likely to be exhausted.

Signs & Symptoms

There are certain signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders that are worth looking out for if you suspect that you might be dealing with this disorder. These include:

  • Pain or tenderness when it comes to the jaw.
  • Facial pain that might also feel quite achy.
  • Difficulty in chewing your food or experiencing pain whilst chewing.
  • Aching pains around and in your ears.
  • Pain in one or both TMJ joints.
  • Locking of the joints making it difficult to open and close your mouth properly. Also known as a locked jaw.

There may also be some clicking or grating sensation in the jaw when you open your mouth or chew, but this is something that doesn’t need treating if it’s not painful or doesn’t cause use discomfort.

Seeking medical help and advice

When it comes to seeking medical attention or help, it’s best to seek it when you have persistent pain in your jaw or tenderness that just won’t go away. If you’re not able to open or close your jaw completely, then this should also be a clear sign that you need to get some help for the situation.

There are certain risks that can happen if you don’t get it seen to and these can potentially cause more long-term damage. If you have various types of arthritis for example or a jaw injury, then it’s best to get help as soon as possible. The same goes for any connective tissue diseases or long-term grinding or clenching of your teeth.

When you seek medical help for a TMJ disorder, the medical professional will likely listen to and feel your jaw when you open and close it. They may press on certain areas to identify any pain and discomfort as well as doing dental x-rays to examine the health of your teeth and jaw.

Self-care tips for TMJ Disorders

There are some at-home self-care tips that might be worth doing to try to reduce any pain or feelings of discomfort. These following habits can help you get some relief and to help manage your jaw pain and discomfort:

  • Putting ice packs on the jaw: Ice is very helpful in reducing the swelling in the joint itself and it can help to relieve the pain, if not for just a temporary amount of time.
  • Eating soft food: Eating softer foods is going to be gentler on your joints. Avoid eating the harder foods as these can end up putting pressure on your TMJ.
  • Restrict your jaw’s range of motion: It’s good to be mindful of your jaw when it comes to talking, chewing food and doing something as simple as yawning! Be careful of how wide or any repetitive actions you do.
  • Relieve stress: Stress can cause a lot of pain and discomfort on the jaw so try to reduce it where you can. We all deal with stress and sometimes doing a little bit of self-care can help with that.

All these self-care tips will hopefully relieve some of the pain and discomfort that come with a TMJ disorder. If not and it persists, that’s when you should see a qualified ear, nose, & throat expert. If you’re having any worries about your joints, then it’s worth learning more about Mountain Ear, Nose & Throat Associates. You can call us today at 828-586-7474 for Sylva, 828-524-5599 for Franklin, 828-835-1014 for Murphy and 828-458-8100 for New Asheville.