The temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) is located where the jaw bone meets the skull, just in front of your ears. This is where the jaw muscles control the movements of opening and closing the mouth on each side of the head. The joints, muscles, and ligaments work together for actions such as chewing, speaking, swallowing, and yawning.
Each TMJ has a disc between the ball and socket that acts as a cushion when the jaw is opened wide, rotated, or moved from side to side. Problems related to the TMJ and surrounding tissues can lead to pain and tenderness that is referred to as TMJ Disorder. This disorder tends to be caused by alignment issues, grinding, stress to the area, or injury.
How to know if you have TMJ Disorder
Our dentists are specially trained in the anatomy of the face and jaw. If you are concerned about TMJ or other discomfort, the best place to start is with a dental exam. Your family dentist will check your jaw alignment, problems opening and closing the mouth, and any noises associated with moving the jaw (clicking, popping, grinding). TMJ can also be caused by dentures or appliances that do not fit correctly, so be sure to bring any dental appliances with you to your appointment.
Our Neuromuscular dentists can assess face and neck muscles to determine whether the pain you are experiencing is related to tension in the surrounding head and neck muscles. Our office is equipped with technology such as K7 jaw tracking equipment to help diagnose issues related to jaw alignment and bite. It helps measure the movements of the TMJ, the trajectory at which the teeth connect, and muscle activity around the jaw.
If tense muscles are the cause of TMJ, we can use ultra-low frequency Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation to force the metabolites and lactic acid away from the muscles and into the bloodstream. Dental BOTOX® injections can also be effective at reducing jaw tension and relieving discomfort.
Home Remedies for TMJ
To help ease sore jaw muscles, place a cold or warm compress to your jaw and gently massage the jaw muscles at least once per day. To reduce stress to the jaw, eat soft foods in small portions and avoid hard and chewy foods. Make a conscious effort throughout the day to relax your jaw and tongue, and make sure your teeth are not clenched together. Your dentist may suggest wearing a night guard while you’re sleeping to help the jaw joints and muscles to relax.