Suffering from daily facial discomfort and tense jaw pain is your body's way of signaling something is not correct. Persistent jaw pain and discomfort that affects your daily life could be an indication that you're one of the millions of people suffering from TMJ disorder. While TMJ should always be officially diagnosed by a dentist, performing this simple test at home can help you determine if it's likely TMJ that's causing your suffering.
How to Check on Your Temporomandibular Joint at Home
A TMJ disorder can occur if any part of the TMJ system of muscles, tissues, ligaments, and bones dislocates or becomes inflamed. You can do a simple self-diagnosis by using this test, suggested by James Friction, DDS, a professor in the division of TMJ disorders and orofacial pain at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry.
While opening your jaw slightly, place a finger over the joint in front of your ear, and then open wide until you can feel the joint move. If you feel the joint click or if it's tender when you press gently, you may have temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
Other Warning Signs and Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
When everyday activities like eating or talking become uncomfortable because of jaw pain, you'll do anything to find some relief. Your jaw pain may be due to a combination of factors, including genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury, and jaw pain doesn't necessarily mean you have a TMJ disorder.
Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw, cheeks, ears, and neck
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Headaches or migraines
- Difficulty chewing
- Pain while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the jaw
- Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
- Clicking or grating sound when you use your jaw muscles
- A tired feeling in the face
- Change of facial expressions
- A change in how your lower and upper teeth fit together
Confirming Your Diagnosis With Your Dentist
If you suspect you have TMJ disorder, talk to your primary care physician or your dentist. Either provider can effectively check for symptoms and help you develop a treatment plan. You may consider visiting a TMJ disorder specialist local to you if the problem persists after treatment.
To diagnose and determine the actual cause of your discomfort, we will perform the following:
- Take x-rays of your jaw.
- Gently explore areas around your jaw to pinpoint the source of pain.
- Evaluate the motion of your jaw.
- Examine your bite and check its alignment to see how your teeth come together.
- Listen for sounds that indicate TMJ problems, such as clicking.
Find Permanent Relief From Jaw Pain
In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders are temporary and can be relieved with self-managed care and non-surgical treatments. Since the TMJ joint is made of tissue and muscle, like any other in the body, the treatments are similar to how you would treat any other inflamed muscle or joint - with rest and relaxation.
Here are a few easy, at-home treatments to find relief from jaw pain:
- Rest the joint by eating soft foods that require minimal chewing.
- Avoid chewing gum or any other chewy foods.
- Apply ice at the beginning of the day and heat packs later to decrease muscle inflammation.
- Try a different pillow to allow for proper neck support while you sleep.
- Practice jaw exercises to stretch and relax the muscles.
- Over-the-counter pain medications or anti-inflammatories to provide short-term relief.
- Practice stress reduction techniques such as meditation or yoga to relax.
If you're experiencing jaw pain or stiffness that's affecting your daily life, contact Tompkins Dental today to start feeling relief from your constant discomfort.