Understanding and Alleviating TMJ Pain

Jaw pain can be a real, well, pain in the neck (or the face, as it were)! The truth is, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ or TMD) affects millions of people, and yet it remains a misunderstood and often underdiagnosed condition. If you have been experiencing discomfort or reduced mobility in your jaw, it might be time to take a closer look at what could be the root cause and how you can find relief and a lasting solution for your TMJ pain. 

Here at Pier 210 Dental Group, Dr. Roholt has completed extensive training on diagnosing and treating all forms of head and neck pain, including TMJ pain (or TMD). We can help you understand the anatomy of your jaw, decode the symptoms of TMD, and equip you with actionable strategies to soothe your irritated mandible.

Understanding TMJ Pain

The temporomandibular joint is a complex hinged system that connects your jawbone to your skull. It allows for important actions such as talking, chewing, and yawning  through a series of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and a disc. Needless to say, this part of the body is intricate and complex. 

When something goes awry – whether it is due to misalignment, injury, or stress – the result is often a cascade of discomfort and dysfunction. To better understand TMJ pain, you must first understand the joint function itself.

TMJ Structure and Function

The TMJ is an especially unique body part in its structure and function. Pairing with muscles and ligaments, it works as a sliding hinge, moving upward, downward, and from side to side. This complex action facilitates the numerous movements needed to speak, eat, and express a whole range of emotions. The joint's disc, helps cushion the joint itself and keep it moving smoothly, much like the knee or shoulder joints. Sometimes experiencing jaw pain when yawning, chewing, or making certain facial expressions can be a clue that something is off.

Common Triggers for TMJ Pain

The triggers for TMJ pain can vary widely which is why it is sometimes difficult for patients to self-diagnose. Common culprits include:

  • Bruxism: The grinding or clenching of teeth, often during sleep, which can strain the joint and associated muscles.
  • Misalignment: A dental misalignment can lead to strain on the joint during chewing, speaking, or even at rest.
  • Arthritis: Inflammation of the joint due to various forms of arthritis can lead to pain.
  • Injury: A blow to the jaw or joint can lead to acute or chronic pain.

Something else that’s important to note is that while the initial trigger may be a singular event, the joint is part of a delicately interconnected system which means an injury can cause other issues. Pain in one place can cause a ripple effect, influencing posture, neck pain, and even causing headaches sometimes referred to as TMJ pain in head.

Deciphering the Symptoms of TMD

Symptoms of TMJ disorders can vary greatly and may mimic other conditions. Common indications that you may be contending with a TMJ disorder include:

Pain and Tenderness

Pain is the most apparent symptom and can manifest in various ways:

  • Facial pain: Often felt in the jaw, temples, and around the ear.
  • Jaw pain: Ranging from a dull ache to a sharp, searing pain, particularly during jaw movement.
  • Toothaches: Sometimes leading to misdiagnosis as a dental problem.

Restricted Jaw Movement

Patients may experience the inability to open the mouth very wide or a locking sensation that can be both uncomfortable and alarming.

Clicking, Popping, or Grating Sounds

Audible sounds or clicking, popping, or other strange sensations within the joint can indicate a displacement of the disc or joint erosion.

Headaches, Neck Aches, and Earaches

Since the jaw is closely connected to other parts of the body, TMD can lead to referred pain, causing discomfort in the head, neck, and ears, including tinnitus, or a ringing noise.

Treatment Approaches to Tame TMJ Pain

Dealing with TMJ pain often involves a multifaceted approach that may include dental treatments, lifestyle adjustments, and self-care strategies. Here are several avenues to explore in your quest to alleviate TMJ pain.

Dental Treatments

  • Orthodontics: If misalignment is the issue, often the best solution is orthodontics.
  • Mouthguards (Occlusal Appliances): These custom-fit devices protect teeth from the damage caused by bruxism and can reduce stress on the joint. Although, only a temporary solution until the root cause can be corrected.
  • Bite Adjustments: Dental work to align the bite may be necessary to correct misalignments that lead to TMJ pain.

Contact Us Today for Help with Your TMJ Pain 

Dr. Roholt’s extensive training has prepared him well to diagnose your TMJ pain and treat many of the root issues that cause it. If you do a quick Google search for “dentist office near me,” “dental office Sacramento,” or “pediatric dental offices near me,” you’ll get a wide range of options.  

Simply read our reviews and you’ll see why so many people choose Pier 210! Our staff is committed to giving you a gentle dental experience and will make sure you are comfortable and relaxed. Call us to schedule an appointment today at (530) 885-5696.

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