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If you have trouble opening and closing your mouth, hearing a popping sound each time you try, you may be suffering from a dislocated temporomandibular joint (TMJ). These hinges connect your lower jaw to the upper, which you can feel moving if you put your fingers on the area just in front of the lower part of each earlobe when you open and close your mouth. But if it’s not really painful, you may rather not go to the dentist to deal with what you feel is just an annoyance.
TMJ Problems Should Not Be Ignored
But as with most dental problems, ignoring TMJ Disorder will likely lead to it getting worse. Maybe you already have other symptoms, which will become more severe if untreated:
- Sometimes you may find that your jaw seems locked, so you can’t even open or close.
- Jaw muscles may be sore and then become painful.
- The sides of your face could swell up.
- Sore muscles in your neck and shoulders will often lead to spasms.
- Your hands and fingers may feel numb.
- You could start suffering from frequent headaches, even migraines.
- A feeling of congestion or pain in your ears might lead to occasional ringing.
- Teeth may become sensitive.
- You realize you are unconsciously clenching your teeth, which wears them down, a side effect of TMJD.
The Causes of TMJD
So what causes TMJD? Of the 10 million Americans who suffer from it, many report that they started having problems after a period of great emotional stress (which could manifest in clenching or grinding teeth at night, known as bruxism). Some had a bite misalignment all their lives or suffered a blow to the head or whiplash in an accident, dislocating the TMJ. Others were believed to have contributed to the problem by chewing gum excessively, their bite became misaligned due to missing teeth, or TMJD was one of the side effects of fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, or osteoarthritis.
Women in particular are prone to TMJD (90% of cases are women 18-44) because menstruation can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies that cause loss of bone, including at the hinges. Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy can cause pain in the joints. The collagen protein in women that holds the joints and sockets in place is not very strong.
Fortunately, Wilshire Smile Studio is treating TMJD, especially early on before great damage is done. We can create a personalized orthotic splint that gradually realigns the bite. We can also teach you some exercises to relax your jaw and the use of moist compresses for pain relief. If necessary, we will prescribe muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories or refer you for physical therapy or ultrasound or laser therapy.
Call for an appointment today if you are having trouble with your TMJ to find out what your best options are for treatment.