Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ disorders) are fairly common and can manifest in various ways. There are two temporomandibular joints in your body – one on each side of your head, located in front of your ears. TMJ, as a condition, develops when there is a problem with either these joints as they connect the jawbone to the skull, or with the muscles responsible for chewing. TMJ disorders are somewhat common, however many people who suffer from the condition don’t realize they have it. If you notice any of the symptoms listed here, call our office at (202) 723-2400 to schedule an examination.

Symptoms of TMJ

TMJ disorder will often manifest itself via symptoms that appear to be unconnected to the jaw, including severe headaches or ear, neck, and face pain. While many people attribute these symptoms to stress or issues with their spine, they may actually be a result of this condition.

Other, more obvious symptoms include difficulty chewing or biting down, a popping or clicking sound when opening and closing the jaw, and jaw pain. In some cases, TMJ becomes so bad that a person can’t even open their mouth. This is the extreme, however, and there are almost always signs along the way.

Before people reach the point of unbearable pain, they’ve typically been experiencing discomfort in the mornings or throughout the day, difficulty chewing and a lack of mobility with their jaw in general. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or notice them getting worse, we recommend coming in at the first sign of irritation so that you can begin treatment before it becomes severe.

Causes of TMJ

There are several yet-to-be-proven reasons for what causes TMJ, including issues with posture, poor diet, lack of sleep, or the cartilage found at the joint. In our practice, we’ve found that one of the most common causes of TMJ is clenching or grinding teeth at night.

During times of high stress, many people fail to have a restful night’s sleep. And when they do sleep, they take out their frustration by inadvertently clenching their jaw closed or grinding down their teeth without realizing it. This can manifest very early in life, and even affect children.

Grinding forces the muscles and joints of the mouth to remain in a tense position all night, which can lead to pain the following morning. If it only happens occasionally, you may awake to a minor headache and feel better the next day. If it’s a recurring nighttime problem, however, TMJ symptoms can begin to manifest and you will begin to feel less and less comfortable.

One way to diagnose TMJ is to pay particular attention to whether or not you have a headache or jaw pain after a bad day at work or other stressors. If there is no correlation and the pain is consistent, you should seek treatment immediately by calling (202) 723-2400. Alternatively, if your discomfort is intermittent, you can bring up your concerns at your next dental examination in our Washington office – as long as it is within the next several months.

Check out what others are saying about our TMJ/TMD treatment services on Yelp: TMD Treatments Washington

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TMJ Treatment Options

As with other dental concerns, we always recommend starting with the least-invasive treatment method for TMJ. It is important to avoid placing any additional stress on your joints, despite the potential allure of fixing it with surgery.

Start with gently massaging your jaw muscles a couple of times per day — we can show you how to do so without irritating the area or causing a flare-up. You may also want to analyze your diet to determine if any hard-to-chew foods might be making the problem worse. At Premier Dental Care, we often find that patients are inadvertently increasing their jaw problems by regularly eating foods like tough meat and nuts that require more forceful chewing. Switching to soft foods or ones that are easily pulled apart can reduce the stress on the jaw and muscles, and even bring immediate relief.

Since TMJ is often caused by grinding or clenching the teeth, we offer a solution that prevents the upper and lower teeth from touching as one way to experience relief. By creating an impression of your teeth, we can create a custom night guard for you to wear while sleeping. The night guard is made of a clear and comfortable plastic that surrounds your upper and lower teeth, similar to how a full retainer would function. The main difference is that the upper and lower portion attach and by doing so, prevent your teeth from touching and your jaw from clenching.

Very often, our patients report feeling better immediately. And every night that you sleep without grinding your teeth, you have the opportunity to increase the quality of your rest and wake up feeling energized – a win-win scenario. Since the night guard is small, easily removed and stored, there are no clunky devices to worry about and you can take it with you when traveling.

As a TMJ dentist, we speak with patients throughout the 20012 area who have had other dental offices in the area recommend surgery to fix TMJ issues. At Premier Dental Care, we invite you to schedule an appointment to treat your pain with a nonsurgical, non-invasive night guard before considering escalating your treatment. Surgery is not something to be taken lightly and should only be performed as a last result. To further discuss our non-invasive solution, call (202) 723-2400 to speak with one of our team members today.

During your first appointment, we will conduct a gentle examination and ask questions in order to understand the full extent of your symptoms and how they are impacting you on a daily basis. It is critical that you see a dentist who appreciates the nature of TMJ and the need for caution during dental care. Without it, you could further irritate your jaw and muscles, leading to further discomfort.

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