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If your jaw muscles are sore, you hear a click when you open and close your mouth, you feel your ears are congested, you have frequent severe headaches, or there is swelling on the side of your face, you may be suffering from TMJ Disorder (aka just TMJ).
This stands for a mouthful: the temporomandibular joint. It is the hinge you can feel moving if you put your fingers just in front of the bottom of your ears and open and close your mouth.
A lot of things can cause the TMJ to go out of whack. Emotional stress can make you unconsciously clench your teeth or grind them when you sleep. You may have a misaligned bite, missing teeth, or some that are worn down. Bad habits like chewing gum excessively or biting nails can trigger TMJ malfunction.
Some 90% of TMJ cases are in women ages 18-44. Many doctors believe this is partly due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can be caused by menstruation, especially for magnesium, which affects bone health. Researchers have found a link between estrogen and pain in the jaw joints, especially for women who use oral contraceptives or who are undergoing hormone replacement therapy. It also appears that the collagen in women that holds the disk in place between the joints and sockets is different from that in men, causing easier dislocation. And women are also more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia and arthritis, which can play a role.
The good news, says Dr. Baruch Twersky of the Wilshire Smile Studio in Los Angeles, is that there are many ways to treat TMJ, among them:
*Your dentist can make a customized orthotic splint that is comfortable to wear to gradually get the jaw to stay in its normal position, rather than popping out of place.
*Crowns, bridges, dental implants, or Invisalign orthodontic treatment can improve your bite and smile.
*Neuromuscular exercises we can teach you, anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxers we can prescribe, or Botox injections we can provide.
Come in for a diagnosis of your oral health issues and learn about treatments that may help. Call for an appointment with one of our TMJ experts: 323-DENTIST (336-8478).