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Pain in the jaw can result from a number of conditions; one common problem is temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). If you hear a popping or clicking sound when you open your mouth or experience jaw pain, you might suffer from this disorder. The following article provides information about temporomandibular joint disorder.

Definition

The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw with the temporal bones of the skull. This hinge joint is complex and is responsible for movement of the lower jaw, including movement forward, side to side, and backward. It is a complicated system of bones, ligaments, muscles, and discs, and any problems that prevent it from functioning properly are called temporomandibular joint disorder. It is often impossible to determine the precise cause of the problem or misalignment.

Signs and Symptoms

"There are numerous signs and symptoms of TMJ, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions. That makes it difficult to know for sure if you have temporomandibular joint disorder" according to Beverly Hills Cosmetic dentist Dr. Kourosh Maddahi. Some of the common signs and symptoms include the following:
  • Pain in the jaw, face, or around the ears
  • Migraine-like headaches 
  • Earaches
  • Pressure or pain behind the eyes
  • A popping or clicking sound when closing or opening your mouth
  • Jaws that feel stuck, locked, or out of place
  • Jaw muscle tenderness
  • Facial swelling
  • A sudden change in how the teeth of the upper and lower jaws fit together

Diagnosis

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment to talk to your dentist. They can make a diagnosis by reviewing your dental and medical history, conducting a clinical exam, and taking x-rays as needed. Because many of the symptoms are also present with other conditions, it is frequently hard to know if you have temporomandibular joint disorder, so a visit to your dentist is required for a proper diagnosis.

Treatment Options

With temporomandibular joint disorder, there isn’t a single cure, but treatment may dramatically reduce your symptoms and discomfort. Your dentist will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is likely to include one or more of the following treatments:

  • Medication – Certain medications are used to reduce or eliminate jaw pain and muscle spasms. These medications include aspirin, muscle relaxants, over-the-counter pain-relievers, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Moist heat – Applying moist heat can also help eliminate pain and muscle spasms of the jaw.
  • A night guard – This appliance is custom-made to your mouth and is worn at night on the upper teeth to prevent them from grinding against the lower teeth. Also called a splint or bite plate, a night guard reduces the harmful effects of grinding and clenching.
  • Relaxation – Learning relaxation techniques can help you control muscle tension in your jaw.
      • Stress reduction – Training to help reduce stress is often helpful in reducing jaw muscle tension.
  • Surgery – Jaw joint surgery may be recommended if other treatment options are unsuccessful.
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