Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder can significantly impact your daily life, making it hard to chew, open your mouth, or even talk. And, yes, TMJ can also cause tooth pain, though this pain may feel different than your average toothache as it can affect a larger part of your jaw.
Since tooth pain can also indicate other dental issues, such as tooth decay, it’s crucial to get any discomfort checked by a dentist. We can examine your oral health, pinpoint what’s causing your tooth pain, and recommend personalized solutions for your family’s jaw health, such as mouthguards.
What is a TMJ Disorder?
A temporomandibular joint disorder is a problem that affects the jaw muscles and facial nerves. It can be a painful and uncomfortable condition, and if left untreated, it can lead to more severe health problems.
The temporomandibular joint is the hinge between the jawbone and the skull. It enables you to open and close your mouth while talking, chewing, yawning, and many more daily activities we may not think about until they’re hindered. For all that it does, this joint is considered one of the most complex joints in the body.
But when you have a TMJ disorder, referred to as a TMD, your jaw might be all you can think about. About 25–30% of the population experiences pain and discomfort caused by TMDs. Common causes include:
- Bruxism (grinding or clenching teeth)
- Trauma or injury
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Worn, loose, or missing teeth
- Ill-fitting dentures
- Habits such as biting on pencils or chewing ice
The symptoms of TMJ disorder vary from person to person. A common symptom mentioned is your jaw clicking, which can make many people panic when they hear that sound. However, it’s perfectly normal for your jaw to click occasionally. As long as the click doesn’t hurt, this typically doesn’t require treatment.
Symptoms that may indicate TMDs include:
- Neck or face pain
- Pain in the jaw joint
- Jaw tightness
- Limited or no jaw movement
- Painful clicking, popping, or grating in the jaw
- Ringing in the ears or hearing loss
- Dizziness (vertigo)
- Teeth misalignment
TMDs can worsen existing dental issues or cause pain, but tooth pain may not be a direct symptom. One reason for this is that TMDs can be the cause and symptom of other conditions. For example, grinding your teeth can result in a TMD, while simultaneously, a TMD can cause people to clench or grind their teeth.
In either case, this can aggravate dental issues and cause tooth pain. Finding the core issue to address is one of the primary goals of a dental exam.
How Does a Dentist Treat TMD?
Living with a TMD can certainly be challenging. Proper treatment can help manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. Let’s dive into some of these solutions:
- Oral Appliances: Wearing a night mouthguard or bite plate while you sleep can help your jaw joints relax. These devices can prevent teeth grinding, a common issue among TMD sufferers, and provide a cushioning effect between your upper and lower teeth.
- Relaxation Techniques: Stress can often contribute to TMD symptoms, so reducing stress is crucial. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi can help you relax and manage stress more effectively.
- Physical Therapy: Yes, even your jaw can benefit from a good workout! Gentle massage and stretching can help strengthen your jaw muscles and improve flexibility. The result? Less strain and more comfort.
- Medication: Certain medications can also provide relief from TMD symptoms. These include pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants. A healthcare professional can recommend proper medications.
- Botox Injections: Botox isn’t just for wrinkles—it can also help with TMD! Botox injections can relax and ease the tension in your jaw muscles, providing relief from discomfort and pain.
- Lifestyle Changes: Sometimes, small changes can make a big difference. This could involve modifying your diet to include softer foods or avoiding habits like nail-biting.
- Surgery: In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. This is usually considered a last resort when other treatments haven’t provided sufficient relief.
Remember, everyone’s TMD journey is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. Your dentist can guide you toward a suitable treatment plan for your specific needs.
While a TMD can go away on its own, it’s not usually the best option to sit around and hope everything turns out fine. At the very least, your dentist can suggest ways to relieve pain as your jaw heals.
Dental Care for a More Relaxed You
TMJ disorder can have wide-reaching effects, and that includes tooth pain. Knowing the source of your discomfort is the first step to improving your TMJ symptoms for a better quality of life. Our Pristine Dental team is passionate about helping you rejuvenate your oral health, from clean teeth to a relaxed jaw.
Don’t wallow in the discomfort of TMJ pain. Book your appointment and get on the path to a healthy, pain-free life.