What is TMJ and how can I prevent it?When something’s not right with your jaw joints and muscles, TMJ problems surface quickly.

Frequent headaches, trouble eating and locking of the jaw are just a few symptoms of TMJ disorder, with jaw pain topping the list. Though extremely common, most people don’t know what TMJ is or how to prevent TMJ pain.

What is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) affects the way you use your jaw. These joints are highly sensitive to overall physical, emotional and psychological stress, which can cause dysfunction and expose certain nerve endings to create a painful sensation.

The resulting TMJ disorder can exhibit a variety of mild to severe symptoms, from minor discomfort while chewing to clicking or popping sounds in the jaw to sharp pain in the temple, ears, neck and shoulders.

Treating TMJ Disorder at Home

Most TMJ disorder symptoms go away on their own. However, to alleviate the pain, you might want to try these symptom relief exercises.

  • Jaw stretches – Our favorite method involves touching the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth and slowly opening and closing your mouth as many times as you can without feeling pain. If you start to feel pain, stop the stretches.
  • Breathing exercises – Conscious breathing exercises can ease tension, which is especially helpful if your TMJ disorder is stress-related. The TMJ Association suggests taking deep, slow breaths to enhance muscle relaxation and reduce stress.
  • Strengthening exercises – To prevent TMJ pain and strengthen your jaw, open and close your mouth while simultaneously putting resistance on your chin with your thumb.

You may also want to adjust your dental care routine to make sure your mouth stays healthy despite the TMJ pain.

If you continue to experience pain with your jaw or the exercises cause more discomfort, you may want to have your dentist evaluate the area to determine what the underlying issue could be.

When to See Your Dentist

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your dentist immediately:

  • Pain from jaw movement (talking, biting, chewing) that has not improved in 2 weeks
  • Jaw discomfort prompted by stress or anxiety
  • Change in bite alignment
  • Chronic jaw pain

Because TMJ problems are very common, we evaluate every patient at Dentistry at East Piedmont for TMJ disorder during their regular dental exam. If we detect any issues, our goals are to determine the best treatment, protect your teeth from further damage and correct any potential bite misalignment.

If you have questions about TMJ disorder and our treatment process or you’d like to schedule a new patient exam at our Marietta dental office, feel free to reach out to us at (770) 321-5558.

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