We’ve probably all yawned so extremely that our jaw made a popping sound just in front of our ear. That is the location of the Temporal Mandibular Joint, often abbreviated “TMJ”. This is a hinge that connects our lower jaw to the temporal muscles in the skull. When it doesn’t operate correctly, it has a “TMD”, or a “temporomandibular disorder”. These varied disorders can be short-term or chronic. One main cause of TMD is clenching your teeth. Another is grinding your teeth, often overnight. Sometimes, a blow to the face causes the joint to misalign temporarily, or swell. Osteoarthritis also plays a role in discomfort.
Often, a little self-care goes a long way to relieve the pain. Placing a warm, moist cloth on the area several times a day, and alternating this with an ice pack, often brings relief especially when you open and close your mouth gently while these are in place. Pain relievers help, too. It is important to avoid chewing crunchy food, chewing gum, or anything chewy during this time.
When the disorder is chronic, that’s when I get involved. Sometimes we require special x-rays to rule out specific damage to the joint. Most often, our office works with a dental lab to create a device that is worn when sleeping, known as a splint. It relieves the tension on the TMJ and prevents overnight grinding and clenching.
Should you have children who enjoy popping their jaw, or participate in sport without the requisite protective gear, please intervene so they don’t develop a TMD later in life.
Contact Winterset Dental today to find out which treatment is right for you.