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TMJ: Learn the Signs of this Painful Condition and How to Get Relief

You’ve probably heard the term TMJ a few times in your life, and you might vaguely know it has something to do with your jaw, but if you are ever afflicted with TMJ, you’ll wish you knew more about it.

Thanks to the team at Higgins Dental in Jacksonville, Florida,  you’re about to get a crash course in TMJ. Here’s everything you need to know about the symptoms and treatment of this painful condition.

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This joint connects your jawbone to your skull and functions like a sliding hinge that lets you move your jaw up and down and side-to-side so you can talk, chew, yawn, etc.

You have one joint on each side of your jaw, and problems in the joint or the muscles surrounding the joint can sometimes cause pain. These issues are known as temporomandibular disorders or TMD. Sometimes the disorders are also called TMJ, after the joint itself.

We don’t know exactly what causes TMJ, but it could be a combination of factors, including genetics, injury to your jaw, arthritis, grinding your teeth, and even stress, which can cause your muscles to tighten and your teeth to clench.

What are the symptoms of TMJ?

We see TMJ most commonly in people between the ages of 20 and 40. It can cause severe pain and lasts for varying amounts of time — it can be a temporary condition or last for years. Common symptoms include:

You should see a doctor or your dentist if any of these symptoms persist for longer than a temporary period, or if you can’t open or close your jaw all the way.

How can you treat TMJ?

TMJ can be treated with a wide variety of methods, from stay-at-home remedies all the way up to surgery. At home, you can apply an ice pack to the affected area, do a few jaw stretches, and then follow-up by holding a warm towel to your face for about five minutes. You can also avoid extreme jaw movements, keep your teeth slightly apart as much as you can (to relieve pressure), and learn some relaxation techniques.

You can also take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve the pain. If this doesn’t work, your doctor can prescribe a higher dose, or give you a muscle relaxer or anti-depressant to relieve your stress and anxiety.

Other options include a nightguard to prevent teeth grinding, dental work to balance the biting surfaces of your teeth, and physical therapy to stretch and strengthen your jaw.

More involved procedures include arthrocentesis (small needles irrigate the joint), steroid injections, arthroscopic surgery, and even open-joint surgery. Rest assured that your doctor or dentist will not attempt these more complicated options until they have exhausted other, easier treatments.

If you think you may have TMJ, set up an appointment with Higgins Dental as soon as possible. You can call our office or use our convenient online scheduler to pick the time that works best for you. We can’t wait to help you get your life — and your jaw — back!

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