Recent studies have shown that up to 75% of Americans suffer from at least one sign of jaw joint dysfunction and more than 15% of Americans suffer from chronic facial pain. At Matthew Nawrocki DMD, MS, we are committed to educating the public about oral health and current topics in dentistry. In today’s blog, we will discuss TMJ, TMD, and jaw pain. We welcome questions and comments at any time! Feel free to contact us electronically or call (904)602-8396.
What is TMJ?
TMJ is frequently a misunderstood concept. Many people who have jaw pain state that they have TMJ. The fact is that we all have two TMJ’s. TMJ is the acronym for temporomandibular joint. These are our jaw joints. What people are really referring to in this situation is TMD. TMD refers to temporomandibular joint disorder, which is a group of problems associated with the jaw joints. Below we will discuss several issues related to TMD.
TMD can have a myriad of causes. First, the jaw joint itself may be the problem. Signs and symptoms of joint disorder include clicking and popping when opening or closing, limited opening, stiffness or difficulty opening when first waking in the morning, neck aches, headaches, and general soreness in the joint area. TMD can be caused by problems with muscles, ligaments, or dysfunction of the disc. Your dentist understands these problems better than anyone else. If you experience signs or symptoms of TMD, we encourage you to visit your dentist. Often these problems can be corrected and can progress if neglected.
Jaw pain, facial pain, and headaches are challenging problems to diagnose and treat. Many different problems can create the same or similar symptoms. Jaw pain can indicate several different problems. Pain can be considered jaw pain if it is originating from the upper or lower arch or the jaw joint itself. The TMJ is an extremely complex joint with many muscles, ligaments, a disc, several bones, and nerves that all require harmonious coordination in order to work properly and avoid pain.
Jaw pain can be caused by many other factors. First, referred pain is possible. There have been many cases in the past of people suffering from jaw pain that is referred from the cervical vertebrae. Many times trauma caused from something decades before is the culprit. Other causes of jaw pain can be trigger points in other areas of the head and neck that manifest as pain in the jaw. These are just a few of many examples jaw pain causes. If you have jaw pain we advise you to visit your dentist for a thorough consultation.
Pain in the muscles is called myalgia. Myalgia in the jaw region is very common. Although there are a multitude of potential causes, most commonly jaw muscle pain is caused by overuse. It is very common for people to grind or clench teeth during the day and/or night. Many times the person is not even aware that they grind or clench at night. Waking in the morning with sore or tired jaw muscles is a symptom of this problem.
There are recognizable signs and tests that can be done by your dentist to determine the origins of myalgia. Once diagnosed, appropriate treatment can begin. Often the treatment of choice to eliminate or reduce muscular pain is as simple as a comfortable night guard.
The origin of headache pain is often difficult to determine. Many times headache pain can be due to problems with the bite, jaw muscles, clenching and grinding, or the jaw joint itself. Like many other ailments, the cause of the pain is not necessarily where the pain is realized. A thorough evaluation from a dental professional often can lead to the answers. It is only when the origins of pain are recognized that appropriate treatment can ensue.