Pain and TMJ – End the Suffering

TMJ or Temporomandibular joint disorders are related to the group of muscles and bones that are responsible for jaw movement. The pain caused from TMJ disorders can be local to the joint that is around the jaw, and in the forehead, or radiate as far as the neck, shoulders, and even the upper back. The disorder is characterized by a clicking or popping sound in the jaw, but typified by the pain caused by jaw movement.

Pain and TMJ

Excruciating as this sounds, the biggest problem faced by TMJ patients is actually getting their medical practitioners to take them seriously. Most patients feel like their doctors do not really believe that a pain in the jaw is worth investigating, and most doctors who treat headaches, shoulder discomfort, and back ache fail to see the connection between shoulder pain and TMJ or neck pain and TMJ.

Treatment for Pain

The onus for treatment is thus left to the patients themselves, who suffer the repercussions of pain and TMJ on a daily basis. Ordinary activities like eating and talking become terribly painful. Chewing is painful and troublesome, sleeping becomes a problem, and without proper rest, the body begins to suffer from strain. This only leads to further disorders ranging from mental ailments like inability to concentrate and irritability, cosmetic problems like loss of hair, and severe physical problems like indigestion, fatigue, etc. It has already been established that the pain and TMJ go hand in hand. It is now also known that TMJ can cause reduced hearing and ringing in the ears.

TMJ experts have tried to minimize the pain, and TMJ patients are now equipped with a variety of treatments. Some of these include physical therapy and home remedies, both of which are methods that avoid the ingestion of too many pharmaceutical products.

Physical Therapy

TMJ physical therapy involves exercising the jaw that is placing stress on it and then allowing it to relax, lending elasticity and motion to the jaw muscles. For example, a patient stretch open one side of the mouth and close it, then open the other side of the mouth and close. Another exercise involves opening the mouth as wide as possible, and then using the hand to gently open the mouth a little wider, then relaxing the jaw. Hot towels pressed against the side of the face are recommended during physical therapy to relieve pain.

Home Remedies
Some of the TMJ home remedies (aside for the physical therapy described above) include sprinkling ground flax seeds over a meal before eating, and using ice packs to relieve the pain caused by daily activities for patients of TMJ, chewing, talking, etc. Another effective home remedy is massaging the joints with the finger tips. TMJ patients are advised to generally avoid overusing the jaw muscles – for instance eating less fibrous food and avoiding chewing gum, and maintaining good ‘jaw posture’ or keeping the teeth slightly apart and the tongue touching the roof of the mouth. Over and above this, patients are urged to educate themselves about the disorder and visit a specialist trained in neuromuscular dentistry.

What Causes TMJ Headaches?

The abbreviation TMJ, as you may be aware, stands for Temporomandibular Joint which is the joint that allows your jaw to move so you can carry on conversations or eat your breakfast in the morning. While this joint is extremely important, it’s also quite complex and part of that complexity involves one of the most powerful nerves in the body: the trigeminal. This main nerve of the face branches off in several directions, but one of the main ones heads straight to the TMJ. When problems go wrong with those joint TMJ headaches pain can be one of the results.

Why is the Trigeminal Nerve Important?

Whether you’re suffering from TMJ headaches or other types of TMJ facial pain, the nerve is really the center of the problem. Almost all of the feelings – both painful and pleasant – involving your mouth and face go through this nerve. In fact, the brain spends about 40% of all its capacity just interpreting the signals from the trigeminal nerve and its multitude of branches.

The other reason the nerve is so important is because it feeds directly into the TMJ area so any type of Temporomandibular joint disorder is going to send pain signals shooting through that nerve.

TMJ Problems & Headaches

While there are a number of ways the TMJ and that nerve could end up causing serious headaches, one of the most common involves the disc that can be found between the joints. The disc is meant to reduce friction but in some patients the disc is destroyed by the friction or destroyed through some other means. What then happens is that every movement of that joint causes painful contact with the lower side of the brain. That contact occurs thousands of time a day and can lead to the development of severe headaches in patients.

For some people TMJ headaches aren’t the problem, the pain instead is sent to other parts of their body, such as their neck or their back. However, TMJ headaches do continue to be one of the more serious side effects treated by TMJ orthodontics.

Treating TMJ Headaches

Unfortunately, many patients suffering from these headaches do not get the treatment they need. Instead, their physicians treat their condition with pain relievers or migraine medications. While those options may offer some relief when the TMJ headaches flair, they won’t solve the problem. Most people never even think of seeing a dentist because of their headaches, but that might be the best advice in many cases.

Steps to Take

Recurring headaches are one of the most obvious symptoms of TMJ, but you might not be able to get the proper diagnosis from your doctor or your dentist if they don’t know much about the disorder. Educating yourself and joining a TMJ support group are good steps in the right direction, however. You might be able to find someone in your area who can recommend a professional experienced in dealing with this condition so you can receive a proper diagnosis and effective treatment.

Is There a Difference Between TMJ & Lock Jaw?

There are few medical phenomena more alarming and unpleasant than lockjaw. As the name implies, lockjaw refers to a “locking” of the jaw joint that limits the jaw’s range of motion and makes opening and closing the mouth impossible. Lockjaw can occur when the mouth is either open or closed. In some cases, lockjaw sufferers may be able to pop or slide the jaw back into place and manually close the mouth in this way; in other instances, a trip to the emergency room is required to remedy the situation. In any event, immediate medical attention is required to determine the cause of the lockjaw and to prevent future episodes. If you suffer from TMJ disease, you may already be well acquainted with the dangers of lockjaw. Alternately, if you have ever experienced lockjaw, you may be wondering what causes this affliction. Is there a difference between TMJ and lockjaw, or are they simply offshoots of the same problem?

Lockjaw, or “trismus,” describes any condition that prevents the normal opening and closing of the mouth. If you’re having trouble opening or closing your mouth, you have lockjaw. There are several different causes of lockjaw, and while some of them are temporary, many are chronic and must be dealt with by a qualified medical professional. One cause of lockjaw is injury. Receiving a blow to the jaw, as from a physical altercation, a fall, or a car accident, could temporarily dislocate the jaw joint and make normal jaw movements difficult or impossible. Lockjaw can be caused by injury to areas other than the jaw itself, such as head or neck trauma, but if you haven’t sustained any recent injuries to the jaw or nearby areas, you can safely rule out physical injury as the cause of your lockjaw.

Another common culprit when it comes to lockjaw is the musculature of the jaw. Certain circumstances may cause these muscles to spasm, contract or tighten, locking the jaw into place. One cause of such muscle misbehavior is a dental infection. If the teeth (particularly the deep-rooted molars) and surrounding gums become severely inflamed, lockjaw can be the unfortunate result of that inflammation. Two instances in which this may occur include the formation of an abscess and complications from the removal of wisdom teeth. A poorly placed injection of anesthetic prior to dental surgery may also be to blame for temporary lockjaw. The most serious potential cause of this type of lockjaw is tetanus, an acute bacterial infection that causes muscle spasms in the jaw. If you suspect you may have tetanus, a trip to the hospital is absolutely required.

However, one of the most common causes of lockjaw, as already mentioned, is TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder refers to a syndrome that affects the temporomandibular joint, commonly called the TMJ, which connects the jaw with the bottom of the skull. Due to prolonged stress symptoms, poor eating habits, nighttime tooth grinding, and a host of other contributing factors, the TMJ can become eroded or even dislodged, which leads to a range of painful, unpleasant symptoms, including lockjaw. Other symptoms of TMJ disease include the presence of a “popping” sound in the jaw while chewing, persistent aches or pains in or around the jaw, blurred vision, hearing problems, and a misaligned bite.

TMJ afflicts millions of people around the world, yet many still try to ignore it or treat it on their own. TMJ disorder may be managed for a brief period of time through avoidance techniques, such as chewing on one side of the mouth, or the performance of certain jaw strengthening exercises, but the only long-term solution is to contact an experienced neuromuscular specialist with knowledge of how to cure TMJ. If you’re ready to make your TMJ-related lockjaw a thing of the past, contact Dr. Eddie Siman of Millennium Dental today. Dr. Siman is a pillar in the TMJ community, and can help you get the relief you need immediately. Call Millennium Dental and gain your freedom from TMJ!