Pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and the muscles that control the movement of your jaw may be a sign that you have a TMJ (temporomandibular joint and muscle) disorder. The estimated number of Americans affected by a TMJ disorder is 10 million, although this is a rough figure. More women are believed to be affected than men.
Not all who are affected need treatment
Most people who have a TMJ disorder do not need treatment, nor do they come in for one. That’s because most cases do not represent a serious problem. Occasional and temporary pain may occur in cycles. After a while, the discomfort often goes away on its own or with a little treatment.
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When TMJ is long-term
There are also those that have long-term TMJ symptoms. Prolonged symptoms may involve the following.
- Pain radiates to the neck, face, or jaw
- Stiffness in the jaw muscles
- The jaw experiences locking or limited motion
- A clicking, popping, or grating in the jaw, often accompanied by pain, when the mouth closes or opens
- There is a change in how the upper teeth fit with the lower teeth
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Caring for your jaw when you have TMJ
To ease the symptoms of TMJ, here are some steps you can take on your own:
- Avoid eating tough or crunchy food
- Apply ice packs to the painful areas
- Minimize jaw movements, such as shouting, yawning and chewing gum
- Learn some stress reduction and relaxation techniques
- Ask your healthcare provider for gentle jaw stretching techniques
Seeing a professional
Crayton R. Walker DDS, MD and other experts say that you may see your dentist for TMJ treatment in Salt Lake City, among other medical professionals. Treatment for TMJ may include the use of pain medication such as ibuprofen. It may also involve the use of stabilization splints and/or Botox.
Other treatments may also be available, such as surgery and implants. Talk to your dentist regarding them, so you know which treatment is ideal for you.