“TMJ” is a widely misunderstood term. Many people know that it is somehow related to the jaw, but that might be all they know. Since November is TMJ Awareness Month, we are taking a moment to explain what the TMJ is, how you can recognize symptoms of a TMJ dysfunction, and how your dentist can help you find relief from the jaw pain in Tysons Corner & Potomac that is associated with TMJ problems.
WHAT IS THE TMJ?
While the term “TMJ” is sometimes used to refer to a medical condition, that is not technically accurate. The TMJ is a part of your anatomy; it is the two hinges that connect your lower jaw to the rest of your skull. It is a complex joint that has to put up with much stress on a daily basis. When it suffers trauma or becomes overworked, you might develop TMD, which is a dysfunction of the TMJ.
Some common symptoms of TMD include:
- Persistent jaw pain
- Clicking or popping of the jaw
- The sensation of lockjaw
- Neck and shoulder aches
- Hearing problems
- Difficulty chewing
- Sore facial muscles
Because TMD symptoms can come in so many different forms, it is often misdiagnosed by doctors who have not taken extra time to study the condition. That is why it is important that you seek care from a qualified dentist if you believe you have TMD. Dentists have an in-depth knowledge of facial and jaw anatomy, and they are usually the best source of TMJ treatment in Tysons Corner & Potomac.
HOW A DENTIST CAN HELP
During your appointment, your dentist may observe as you move your jaw up and down and from side to side. They might also press lightly on different parts of your face to find the areas that are most affected. In many cases, dentists also take X-rays or CT scans to get a look at what is happening beneath the surface. After they become familiar with your condition, they can recommend a treatment plan. Common ways to address TMD include:
- Bite adjustments. Your dentist may slightly modify a few of your teeth to create a more even bite, which can reduce stress on the TMJ.
- Occlusal splint. An occlusal splint is a mouthguard-like device that is worn at night. It prevents bruxism (involuntary teeth grinding) and thus relieves pressure on the jaw joint.
- TENS therapy. Light electrical impulses can increase blood flow to the jaw and bring relief to overly stressed facial muscles.
- At-home remedies. Your dentist may suggest that you make changes to your daily routine to reduce TMJ stress. For example, they might recommend that you stop chewing gum or that you perform facial exercises.
Are you suffering from chronic jaw pain? A visit to your dentist might be all you need to get on the road to lasting relief!
About the Author
Dr. Sam Osseiran is a general dentist with a certification in TMJ management. He is a lifelong learner and is always looking for ways in which he can better serve his patients. To learn more about Dr. Osseiran and how he may be able to help you find relief from TMD, contact one of our conveniently located offices.