Many patients come to their Plano dentist with complaints of jaw or facial pain of unknown origins. In many cases, this pain is caused by either bruxism (teeth grinding) or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which are related conditions.
TMJ disorders refer to a collection of jaw problems that may be treated by a dentist. The jaw joint is a complex one, with a number of structures that facilitate vertical and lateral movements. Problems may develop in the numerous muscles, ligaments and nerves that help the joint do its job, and a misaligned jaw can lead to TMJ disorder, as well.
Symptoms of TMJ disorders may range from jaw pain or stiffness to earaches to clicking or popping noises during chewing. If you have any of these symptoms, discuss them with your dentist to see what treatment is available.
Alternatively, bruxism is a specific condition in which people grind or clench their teeth, often while sleeping. Even when bruxism occurs during the day, patients are often unaware of it. However, patients’ spouses or partners may recognize the problem if it interrupts their sleep! Other signs of bruxism include worn down teeth or damage to the tongue or jaw.
While bruxism can lead to TMJ problems, the category of TMJ disorders is much broader. Issues with any component of the jaw joint may be classified with the TMJ disorders.
Your dentist may use different approaches in treating bruxism and TMJ disorders. Patients with bruxism often must wear a mouthguard at night, and dentists may recommend stress management or relaxation techniques to decrease the occurrences of bruxism.
To treat the symptoms of TMJ disorder, your dentist likely will recommend self-care measures, such as taking pain relievers, applying ice or heat to the area of pain or making dietary changes. Massaging the jaw muscles may also be helpful.
If your jaw and facial pain does not respond to the self-care techniques, you and your dentist may need to consider more invasive interventions, such as surgery. However, surgery is necessary only in rare instances of TMJ disorders.
There’s no need to live with jaw pain, whether it’s caused by bruxism or another TMJ disorder. Contact Plano Smile Studio at 972-398-2550 to see what steps you can take to alleviate your symptoms.