OUR JAWS DO A LOT of work throughout the day, opening and closing over and over so that we can do ordinary things like talk, eat, and yawn. Ideally, all of the anatomy involved functions as it should and we can perform these tasks without trouble, but many people struggle with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders because something has gone wrong.
The Anatomy Of The Temporomandibular Joints
The joints on both sides of our jaw, located between the ear and the cheekbone, consists of three parts: the socket (part of the temporal bone), the ball (the top part of the jawbone), and a small, fibrous disk that acts as a cushion between the two. The ball and socket are covered in cartilage to help keep movement smooth and comfortable.
If the disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment, if the cartilage on the bone is worn away by arthritis, or if there is a traumatic injury to the joint, a TMJ disorder may be the result.
Symptoms Of TMJ Disorders
Common symptoms of a TMJ disorder include:
- Clicking or popping sounds in the joint when chewing, or a grating sensation
- Pain or tenderness of the jaw
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Difficult or painful chewing
- Aching pain around the face
- Aching pain in and around the ear
- Difficulty opening or closing the jaw due to locking of the joint
Tips For Relieving TMJ Pain
If you’re dealing with TMJ pain, there are a few things you can do to reduce it on your own:
- Keep yawning and chewing to a minimum.
- When possible, avoid extreme jaw movements like from singing or yelling.
- If you have to yawn, control it by pressing a fist beneath your chin.
- When resting, hold your teeth slightly apart rather than fully closed. This is the natural resting position for the jaw, even when the lips are closed.
- Eat soft foods that require little to no chewing.
Treatment For TMJ Disorders
In most cases, TMJ pain is temporary and goes away on its own after a week or two, but not always. If it doesn’t, and especially if it gets worse, then it likely needs treatment, which varies depending on the cause.
These treatments include ice packs, exercise, and moist heat, medication, and splints, but if none of them are enough, then measures like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), ultrasound treatment, or trigger-point injections may be necessary. If all else fails, jaw surgery may be recommended.
Talk To Us About Your Jaw Pain
If you’ve been experiencing persistent pain or tenderness in your jaw or difficulty opening and closing it completely, give us a call at (617) 928-8462 or stop by so that we can look for the cause and get you on the path to being pain-free.