Do you suffer from headaches or facial swelling? How about clicking when you open or close your mouth? TMJ disorders can present a range of symptoms. So, what does TMJ pain feel like? And how do you know you have it?
With over 30 years of combined experience, our dentists in Omaha, NE, have helped hundreds of patients with their TMJ disorder. Find out what TMJ feels like and what your treatment options are here.
What Is TMJ Disorder?
To start off – what is TMJ disorder? And what causes it?
Your TMJ is the joint that connects your upper and lower jawbone. When the joint is damaged, this leads to pain caused by a temporomandibular disorder.
Typically the result of a misalignment, TMD can wear down the cartilage between the skull and the jaw. The condition can be tricky to diagnose and may be acute or chronic, with pain ranging from mild to severe. However, once TMD is properly diagnosed, it responds well to treatment.
What Causes TMJ Pain?
TMJ pain can have many different sources, including:
Grinding or clenching your teeth
Overuse of the jaw
Arthritis in the joint
Missing teeth causing an uneven biting surface
Jaw injuries like whiplash
The cause of TMJ disorder can be hard to pin down and may be the result of several factors, including genetics. Your TMD may also be a combination of the above-mentioned causes.
What Does TMJ Pain Feel Like?
There is more to TMD than jaw pain. To treat TMJ disorder early, you’ll first need to understand what signs to look for.
Here are the five most common symptoms of TMJ disorders.
TMJ disorder affects everyone differently. For some, opening your mouth may cause a sharp, sudden pain — while others suffer from a persistent, aching feeling.
Pain in the jaw while chewing is common for patients with TMD. Some patients may even experience pain when yawning or speaking. Clicking or popping in the jaw is a frequent symptom of TMJ disorders.
If jaw pain is your only symptom, you might not need TMJ treatment. But, still, make your dentist aware as quickly as possible.
If the cause of your TMJ disorder is misalignment, you may have trouble chewing. Severe cases of TMD can result in a frozen or “locked” jaw that prevents you from opening and closing your mouth at will.
Facial Pain and Swelling
Facial pain, especially around your temples, is a common symptom of TMJ disorder. The area where your jaw and neck meet might be tender to the touch.
Because your temporomandibular joints are close to your ears, you may also experience ear fullness or an aching feeling.
Headaches and Migraines
TMJ disorders can cause referred pain, including headaches. Headaches will typically worsen when you move your jaw and range from aching pain to throbbing headaches and migraines.
Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain
A tight, locked jaw can cause tension in your upper back, neck, and shoulders. This type of referred pain is very common with TMJ disorders and may be more noticeable than discomfort in your jaw.
In many cases, TMJ disorder treatment is what’s needed for patients to find relief from chronic pain.
How to Treat TMJ Disorder
For some, TMJ disorder goes away on its own. However, if symptoms persist, you have several treatment options. Your dentist may recommend a combination of the following:
Lifestyle Modification - Stress and lifestyle choices are two of the most common causes of TMJ pain. Many cases of TMD are resolved without treatment or through at-home remedies, such as over-the-counter medications or dentist-recommended jaw exercises.
Bite Correction - If home remedies don’t work, your dentist may recommend a mouthguard. Mouthguards help prevent grinding and clenching while keeping your teeth and bite aligned. Overall, mouthguards are a great option for taking pressure off the jaw — without any long-term side effects.
Physical Therapy - A physical therapist can help restore the natural movement of your jaw using manual therapy. However, if they suspect the cause of your TMJ disorder is misalignment, they may refer you to a dentist.
Steroid Injections - Steroid injections provide temporary relief from TMJ pain. Results may last anywhere from six weeks to six months. Botox can also be used to paralyze the jaw muscles and prevent involuntary clenching.
TMJ Surgery - TMJ surgery is typically the last resort if other conservative treatments have failed. Our dentists recommend trying safe, non-invasive options before going forward with surgery.
While steroid injections and surgery may be needed for extreme cases of TMJ disorder, dentist-prescribed methods, like dental splints or mouthguards, are a cost-effective option for treating jaw pain and discomfort.
TMJ Treatment in Omaha, NE
Want to learn more about TMJ disorder and what causes it? Make an appointment with our dentists in Omaha, NE to learn more about what we can do to help your symptoms!