Facial Pain (TMJ)

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What You Need to Know About Facial Pain (TMJ)

If you experience pain in the neck or head or a popping sound when you open your mouth wide, you may be suffering from a temporomandibular joint or TMJ disorder. Although the condition can be very uncomfortable, there are a variety of treatments that can help to alleviate the symptoms, such as bite guards or muscle relaxers. If you believe you might have TMJ, tell your dentist. A thorough exam should reveal whether or not you suffer from this condition.

TMJ disorder is the term used to describe several different conditions involving the temporomandibular joint, or the joint located where the jaw opens and closes. Nerves surrounding this joint can be the cause of facial pain. Although men or women can suffer from TMJ disorder, women are much more likely to have the condition.

The vast majority of the time, TMJ symptoms can be successfully reduced or eliminated altogether. However, the longer you wait, the more likely the chances are that you’ll incur damage to your teeth, muscles or the joint itself, so it’s important to talk to your dentist right away if you believe you suffer from this condition. Fortunately, Dr. Steven T. Cutbirth is considered one of the most qualified dentists to treat TMJ disorder in the central Texas area.

What Causes TMJ

Although the precise cause of TMJ is unknown, some situations that may contribute to the condition include an injury to that portion of the face, arthritis, an improper bite, or any combination of those. People who are under severe stress often clench or grind their teeth while they sleep – a condition referred to as bruxism – and that may contribute to TMJ disorder or develop as a result of TMJ disorder. Bruxism can increase facial pain and negatively impact the joints, which can lead to tissue damage. This, in turn, can cause muscle tenderness and painful spasms, creating a seemingly endless cycle of facial pain.

Recognizing the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

  • Pain or soreness in the jaw, especially in the morning or afternoon
  • Stiffness or pain in the jaw while yawning, biting or chewing
  • Earache that extends into the face
  • Soreness or tenderness in the area in front of the ear
  • A grinding or popping noise when opening your mouth
  • Teeth that are sensitive
  • Neck pain and headaches on the side of the head
  • A burning feeling in the tongue or mouth
  • Teeth grinding
  • Locking of the jaw when it’s open or closed, or a limited range of motion in the jaw

How TMJ Disorders Are Treated

As is always the case with any dental or medical condition, the first step in treatment is to receive a proper diagnosis from a dentist or doctor. Dr. Cutbirth will review your complete medical history, perform a clinical exam and take X-rays in order to confirm that you have some form of TMJ disorder.

After the diagnosis is confirmed, he may recommend one or any combination of the following treatments to alleviate the symptoms, depending on the severity of the condition:

  • Take pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics or muscle relaxants
  • Restricting your diet to soft foods for a period of time
  • Avoid chewing gum as much as possible
  • Apply either ice or moist heat to the joint
  • Seek the services of a physical therapist to help alleviate symptoms
  • Practice relaxation techniques to help relax the joint
  • Perform stress management exercises
  • Improve posture
  • Utilize bite plates to reduce teeth grinding and reposition the jaw
  • Occlusal equilibration – or adjusting the bite
  • Replacing dental restorations that are preventing the jaws from aligning properly
  • Braces to correct the position of the teeth
  • Jaw surgery

Are Your Headaches Caused by a TMJ Disorder?

About 10% of people in the US suffer from chronic headaches. Those individuals often turn to pain medicine to alleviate their symptoms. In actuality, many of those people may suffer from a TMJ disorder that is caused by a bad bite or any of the other possibilities we have mentioned here.

Some studies suggest that more than 40 million people in the US suffer needlessly from TMJ disorders. If you or a member of your family is experiencing any of the symptoms related to TMJ, talk to Dr. Cutbirth about what steps might be done to alleviate the problem. Call us today at 254-772-5420 for more information.