Cartoon image of a woman cringing in pain due to TMJ dysfunction

Common Signs of TMJ Dysfunction

June 20, 2021 12:25 am

Dysfunction of the TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, refers to improper functioning of the hinge joints that attach the top of the jaw to the skull and the associated muscles. This condition can be accompanied by pain, headaches, soreness, and limited jaw mobility.

Face, Jaw & Ear Pain

TMJ dysfunction can cause pain and discomfort in and around the jaw, including headaches, migraines, and ear pain. Since the temporomandibular joint is located just underneath the ear, this pain can be confused with ear infections or other issues.

Jaw Soreness & Stiffness

The jaw muscles, like most muscles in the body, can become sore if they are overused. Patients who have chronic TMJ problems may find themselves waking up with sore facial muscles on a regular basis. In serious cases, patients may have difficulty chewing foods or opening their mouth.

You may also notice the sound of your jaw clicking or popping or a cracking sound when you open your mouth. While this is not a great cause for concern on its own, jaw popping that is accompanied by pain should be evaluated by a dental professional.

Treatment for TMJ Issues

If you experience pain, soreness, and stiffness in your jaw, these mitigating measures may prevent the need for extensive restorative dental work and surgery:

  • Take over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen
  • Use ice packs
  • Consult with a physical therapist about jaw exercises that can reduce pain and discomfort and improve mobility
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Do not bite your nails or writing utensils
  • Eliminate chewy and very hard foods that put more pressure on the jaw
  • Try different stress-relieving activities, such as meditation, yoga, and exercise
  • Invest in a custom nightguard if you grind and clench your teeth at night or during the day, which puts abnormal pressure on your temporomandibular joints

    Riverstone Dental Care offers custom nightguards to help treat TMJ dysfunction and protect your teeth from bruxism. Contact us today to schedule a consultation so our team can create a personalized treatment plan!

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    Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0

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