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Show Your Teeth Some Respect

Think about how many times per day you rely on your teeth. You use them to chew breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. You press your tongue against them to make certain sounds when you speak. There's really no doubt about it — your teeth are important, and they deserve your respect. You can pay them that respect by visiting your dentist for regular cleaning and checkup appointments. You should also call at the first sign of dental pain, tooth discoloration, or other oral health changes. Read more about dentists and dentistry here on this blog, where we dive deep into related topics.

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Show Your Teeth Some Respect

3 Things To Know About TMJ Disorder

by April Myers

The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw, or mandible, to the skull. This joint acts like a hinge and helps with eating, chewing, sleeping, and breathing. When there is a problem with this joint, it's called temporomandibular disorder. According to some studies, about 35 million people in the United States suffer from this TMJ disorder.

To help you better understand this condition, here are three things to know about TMJ disorder.

1. Know the Causes of TMJ Disorder

For some people with TMJ disorder, there is no known cause. For others, there are certain factors that can increase the chances of TMJ disorder.

Some of these risk factors include:

  • Having osteoarthritis, or other types of arthritis.
  • Having a jaw injury.
  • Having a facial deformity.
  • Chewing hard candy or gum for prolonged periods of time.

People who have the habit of chewing their nails, grinding their teeth, clenching their jaw, or biting their lip also increase their chances of TMJ disorder.

2. Know the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

The most obvious symptom of TMJ disorder is pain or tenderness in the jaw. Some people with TMJ disorder liken this pain to a really bad toothache.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Aching pain around the ear
  • Facial pain
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Problems with opening and closing the mouth
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms

Many people with TMJ disorder also hear a clicking sound when they open their mouth.

3. Know the Treatment Options for TMJ Disorder

People with TMJ disorder should consult with a TMJ dentist for treatment options. Most dentists will recommend less invasive treatments to alleviate symptoms of TMJ disorder. Less-invasive TMJ dental treatment includes eating softer foods, avoiding chewing gum, wearing a nightguard, reducing pain with heat packs, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, muscle relaxants, or anti-inflammatory medication. 

Some dentists also recommend practicing relaxation techniques to reduce tension in the jaw. Some examples of relaxation techniques include meditation, listening to soft music, biofeedback, deep breathing, and facial massage. Dentists might also recommend exercises that can help to strengthen the jaw muscles. If an overbite or underbite is causing the TMJ disorder, another treatment option might involve reshaping the teeth or realigning the jaw.

If none of these non-invasive TMJ dental treatments work to reduce symptoms, surgery may be necessary. Surgeries that can help with TJM disorder include:

  • Arthrocentesis
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Botox injections
  • TMJ arthroscopy
  • Open-joint surgery

An oral surgeon can perform these types of procedures.

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