Temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMJ disorder) affects an estimated 5-12% of the population in the United States, and 20-30% of the global population. Simply put, it’s a condition where the joint (or joints) connecting the jawbone to the skull becomes inflamed, causing discomfort, pain, and often “popping” or “clicking” noises that are sometimes audible to other people.
The most afflicted demographic are adult females between the ages of 20 and 40. The vast majority of cases of TMJ disorder resolve on their own in a few years, without the need for surgical intervention. However, it’s important to address the problem once you know it exists, to reduce the chronic neck pain, headaches, and even tooth loss that can occur if the condition is left untreated.
The exact cause of TMJ disorder is not fully understood, but many researchers and specialists believe that the alignment of the teeth plays a large part. Malocclusion (or an irregular bite pattern) can cause one side of the jaw to exert more pressure than the other, which could result in unnatural stress on the muscles and joints.
The most basic treatment for TMJ disorder involves pain management. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs are often prescribed to manage discomfort, and muscle relaxers can help stop symptoms from exacerbating. Some dentists and doctors will also recommend mouth splints if a patient’s condition causes them to clench their jaw repeatedly. This will also help prevent damage to the patient’s enamel, especially during the night if nighttime teeth grinding is detected.
However, many TMJ specialists will advise a more natural treatment for TMJ disorders. This involves natural relaxation techniques and a few gentle stretching exercise to relieve excess tension in the jaw. If you’ve noticed “popping” or “clicking” sounds when you open your mouth widely, or soreness after a long bout of chewing, talk to your dentist, your audiologist, or a dedicated TMJ specialist about treatment for TMJ disorder. Relief may be closer than you think. Continue reading here.