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TMJ Problems and How You Can Prevent Them

TMJ disorder seems to be rising – affecting over 10 million people in the USA only. If you’re one of them, or you know someone who suffers from TMJ, you know how stressful it can be, and how much it can affect your quality of life.

TMJ, located on both sides of the head at the point where the jawbone meets the skull, is used during talking, eating, swallowing, and other everyday activities. These joint muscles can become fatigued and swollen, causing stress on local nerves, or become inflamed, displaced or worn out by excessive tooth grinding or jaw clenching – leading to a condition known as TMJ disorder, or Temporal Mandibular Dysfunction (TMD).

At Smiles by Stevens, we care about the health and wellbeing of our patients, and we like to make sure that we offer free preventive information and share our knowledge that can help them and those close to them.

Since more and more people are experiencing these problems due to high stress levels in today’s world, we wanted to bring awareness to TMJ and how to prevent it.

Causes of TMD include stress, injury to the teeth or jaw, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, teeth grinding, poor posture, arthritis, and even gum chewing.

TMJ problems can include severe tension headaches, often sharp pain in the jaw and nearby muscles, pain and discomfort in ears, neck, shoulders, back, and even across the body; some doctors contribute TMJ to tingling toes and fingers, and to certain cases of carpel tunnel syndrome.

The main signs and symptoms of TMJ syndrome include pain in the jaw joint, clicking and popping of jaw, stiff or sore jaw muscles, locking of the jaw joint, ear pain, popping sounds in ears, headaches, pain in the temple area, and/or dizziness and vertigo.

Treatment of TMJ starts with finding and correcting the cause. If the initiating problem, which is damage or misalignment of the jaw joint, is not corrected – the symptoms of dysfunction will return. This means that TMJ disorder does not just go away; unfortunately, it worsens over time, at different levels for every individual.

The good news is that thanks to the latest information and advances in technology, dentists can diagnose and treat TMJ disorder, and it can even be prevented.

So how can you prevent TMJ disorders?

To prevent the occurrence of this disorder, the best thing would be to try not to overwork your TMJ, by avoiding taking large bites of hard, chewy food, and preventing excessive grinding and clenching of your teeth. Next, make sure to consult your dentist with any issues with your bite or teeth alignment, as well as when you feel any pain on your jaw, neck, shoulders, or face. Early diagnosis and early intervention are crucial.

Your trusted dentist, Dr. Shea Stevens of Smiles by Stevens is passionate about properly evaluating and treating TMJ, so that you can remain symptom free. He’s a TMJD-trained dentist who offers various treatments of TMJ condition, depending on the patient.

While prevention is always the best route and the one we strongly recommend everyone takes, if you or your loved one is already suffering from the TMJ disorder, rest assured there are ways we can help.

The treatment often includes an oral appliance for jaw re-positioners, similar to a mouth guard. Other techniques for treating TMJ include orthodontics, equilibration, occlusal adjustment, restorative procedures such as dental crowns, or a combination of the above. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended. Therapies that can help are massage, gentle stretches of the jaw and neck, stress reduction, and habit cessation (stop gum chewing, for instance).

As of recently, alternative medical treatment for TMJ disorder includes Botox injections. They can relax the muscles of the jaw, often eliminate headaches resulting from teeth grinding and jaw clenching, and even minimize lockjaw. The Botox treatment is usually quick, straightforward, and effective, providing a long-term relief of up to six months, and you don’t have to worry about wearing a day or night guard.

To learn more about TMJ disorder, contact Smiles By Stevens dentistry to schedule your consult with Dr. Stevens – your reliable dentist in Lancaster PA.