Have you ever heard a strange popping or clicking sound when you open or close your jaw? Do you have pain in your jaw? That might be a sign of TMJ/ TMD disorder, or a problem with your temporomandibular joint. That’s the delicate joint that connects your jaw to the rest of your skull. If you place your finger just in front of and below your ear and move your jaw, you can actually feel your TMJ! If you develop TMJ disorder, also known as TMD, does it ever go away on its own? Let’s find out.
What Is TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorder, more often than not called simply TMD or TMJ, occurs when there is a problem with the alignment of your jaw joint. The joint consists of a network of structures, including muscles, bones, and tendons, that must work together precisely to function. If just one structure is compromised, this can result in serious pain due to dysfunction. Common symptoms of TMJ include lockjaw, a popping or clicking sound when you open or close your mouth, jaw pain, and the inability to open or close your mouth all the way.
Potential risk factors for TMJ disorder include:
- Poor posture in the neck and upper back muscles
- Being female aged 18-44
- Having chronic inflammatory arthritis
- Having poorly aligned or missing teeth
- Habitually grinding your teeth, known as bruxism
If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, it never hurts to visit your dentist to figure out if the condition is likely affecting you. Dentists are specially trained to deal with oral structures, even more so than regular doctors.
Does TMD Go Away on Its Own?
Most of the time, no. In fact, if you leave TMJ alone, it usually gets worse, like most issues relating to the mouth. So, if you find yourself experiencing any of the symptoms of TMJ, it’s best to contact your dentist to schedule a consultation right away to determine the best course of action.
How Can Your Dentist Help?
If your dentist determines that you do indeed have TMD, he or she may refer you to an oral surgeon for a more detailed evaluation to decide the best course of treatment. Oral surgeons possess special knowledge of the intricate workings of the jaw structures. After this evaluation, the oral surgeon will often work with your dentist to devise a treatment plan for you.
Your treatment plan may not actually involve oral surgery. Sometimes, TMJ/TMD therapy involves being referred to a mental health professional to learn how to better deal with stress. Maybe it entails being prescribed a custom nightguard to prevent damage from teeth grinding at night. And, sometimes it may involve a combination of these treatments.
TMJ disorder is one health condition that should not be ignored. Treatment is usually pretty simple, and involves a regular visit to your dentist. If any of the symptoms of TMD sound familiar, contact your dentist as soon as you can to find relief.
About the Practice
The dentists at Scannell & Hollinger in East Longmeadow, MA are more than qualified to provide treatment for TMJ disorder, as they have advanced training in the matter. They offer nightguards to prevent harmful teeth grinding while sleeping that could be exacerbating your problem. If you think you’re suffering from TMD, contact Scannell & Hollinger at (413) 525-6821. They can also help diagnose the disorder as well.