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When Should I See a Dentist for TMJ?

Article Details
  • Written By: Lori Smith
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is what allows your lower jaw to open and close when you speak, chew and yawn. When this joint becomes inflamed, it can cause pain in the jaw area and create various unpleasant symptoms. Some people experience frequent, recurring headaches or earaches, for example, while others hear a noticeable clicking or popping noise whenever they eat. You can try avoiding tough or chewy foods for a while and apply a warm compress to the face to ease symptoms. If pain persists for more than a few weeks, however, it may be time to see a dentist for TMJ.

A common complication of TMJ is lockjaw. It can occur when a person opens or closes his or her mouth, and the joint actually locks into that position. Usually, it remains this way only temporarily, but often requires the individual to manipulate his or her jaw from side to side until the disc shifts back into its correct place. If you are experiencing this problem, consider scheduling an appointment with your dentist for TMJ, as chronic lockjaw can be a source of anxiety and frustration.

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The most common reason people seek the assistance of a dentist for TMJ is the occurrence of frequent headaches. This is usually caused by tension and strain placed on the jaw and surrounding muscles. In some cases, nighttime teeth grinding, or bruxism, causes inflammation. When visiting a dentist for TMJ, he can usually tell if that is a contributing factor. If so, a custom-fitted night guard may solve the problem; guards allow the jaw muscles to relax and help prevent further damage.

When people suffer from TMJ symptoms, they often experience audible, sometimes painful, clicking or popping noises whenever they open and close their mouths. This creates discomfort when chewing. Pain does not always accompany the sound, but it can be a source of constant aggravation. In these cases, it may be wise to see a dentist for TMJ so the condition can be treated.

In some cases, other issues, such as an overbite or misaligned dental work, may cause symptoms. Basic adjustments or simple dental procedures may be needed to correct the problem. Following a thorough exam by a dentist for TMJ, he may make recommendations about the best course of treatment.

If symptoms are mild, you can try some home remedies to see if the discomfort and joint swelling subsides on its own. For example, applying warmth to the jaw area and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine may be helpful. Avoid chewy foods, such as tough meats and bubble gum, to give your jaw time to rest and heal. In some cases, pain and tenderness will go away on its own. If not, it is best to seek the advice of a dentist for TMJ.

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