Facial pain and jaw soreness affect everyone at some point. Chronic pain and discomfort are often a result of problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the jaw to the lower skull. Not only can TMJ disorder make simple, everyday activities like eating, speaking and yawning difficult, it can also cause serious oral health problems.
Causes and symptoms of TMJ disorder vary patient to patient, which can sometimes make it difficult to properly diagnose and treat. Working with an experienced specialist like Dr. Mia Fitzgerald is critical for accurate diagnosis and successful treatment. Throughout her many years of practice, Dr. Fitzgerald has helped hundreds of patients find relief from TMJ pain. She believes in taking a patient-focused approach, taking into consideration an individual patient’s unique needs and goals. If Dr. Fitzgerald determines you have TMJ disorder, she will recommend a course of treatment that alleviates your pain and restores your wellbeing.
Understanding How the TMJ Works
The TMJ, located on both sides of the head right below the ear, consists of a disc between a ball and socket. The disc cushions the forces on the joint, enabling the jaw to move and function properly.
There are a number of things that can cause the TMJ to malfunction, including:
- The disc eroding or moving out of its proper alignment
- The cartilage surrounding the joint becoming damaged due to arthritis
- A misaligned bite due to the upper and lower arches of teeth not biting together properly
- Too much stress put on the joint due to chronic teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism)
- The joint sustaining damage from a traumatic blow
Causes of TMJ Disorder
There are several things that can cause the TMJ to malfunction:
- The disk can shift out of alignment or erode.
- The cartilage covering the bone can deteriorate due to arthritis.
- The joint can sustain damage from a traumatic blow.
- Chronic teeth clenching/grinding or teeth that don’t bite together properly can put too much stress on the joint.
- Jaw pain, soreness or feeling of stiffness in your jaw
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw when opening your mouth
- Jaw clicking, popping or grating sounds when opening and closing your mouth
- Misaligned bite
- Chronic headaches and/or neck aches, especially in the morning as you wake up
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Difficulty chewing and/or speaking
- Broken, worn or damaged teeth
- Swelling on the side of your face
- Sinus pain
Following a thorough examination of your jaw, bite and teeth, as well as your symptoms, Dr. Fitzgerald can make recommendations on which treatment option is best for your needs. For mild cases, over-the-counter medications and muscle relaxants may be enough to relieve pain. If your TMJ disorder is stress induced, we may recommend a variety of stress-relieving techniques to ease tension in the jaw and TMJ. Bite or teeth misalignment issues may be treated with orthodontics.
Oral appliance therapy is another option. Oral splints and night guards are designed to keep the teeth in proper alignment while protecting them from the forces of bruxism. Dr. Fitzgerald can create a custom-fabricated splint or night guard. Because your custom-made oral appliance will be made using your unique specifications, it will be better suited to protect your teeth than stock guards available over the counter.
To learn more about TMJ and TMJ disorder, schedule an appointment with Dr. Fitzgerald. Please contact our Sudbury practice by calling or emailing us today.