Temporomandibular joint disorder, more commonly referred to as TMJ, is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms related to the jaw. Although an estimated 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ, the scientific community hasn’t yet agreed on a particular cause. Unlike a simple complication such as a broken arm, TMJ is much more difficult to diagnose, and ultimately treat, because patients suffering from the disorder can experience a wide range of symptoms. While the most common symptoms includes, jaw pain, reduced jaw mobility, and muscle soreness, others complain of frequent headaches, ringing in the ears, and vertigo.
It is possible that there’s a link between TMJ and bruxism (tooth grinding).
Stress, Bruxism and TMJ
Bruxism is a fairly common condition that is generally caused by stress and anxiety. Many of us tend to clench or grind our teeth when a stressful situation arises. This can carry over into our sleep. If you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night with a sore jaw or sore teeth, this could be a blatant sign of tooth grinding. Although TMJ and bruxism haven’t been definitively linked, it’s possible that the added stress to the temporomandibular joint caused by bruxism could be a cause dysfunction. If you’re unsure whether or not you’ve been experiencing bruxism, your dentist can easily spot the signs during a routine checkup, as your teeth will show abnormal wear on one side or the other.
Treat Bruxism by Lowering Stress
Lowering stress isn’t necessarily easy, but there are a lot of strategies out there. The most effective one is frequent and habitual exercises lasting thirty minutes or more. This can include weight training, walking, running, are even yoga. Yoga has been shown to be particularly effective at improving stress and overall quality of life by teaching coping mechanisms tied to breath control. In much the same way, meditation can also be helpful in alleviating stress. This blog from Harvard Medicine focuses on multiple similar relaxation techniques.
Other TMJ Treatments?
TMJ sufferers want to know what treatments are available to treat their symptoms and alleviate pain. Though stress reduction can offer some relief, others who find exercise or meditation difficult may need another form of treatment. Sometimes you have already damaged your jaw joint, and reducing stress or controlling bruxism no longer helps. Consider scheduling an appointment with a local dentist who specializes in treating TMJ.
Your dentist can provide several drug-free treatments that can help alleviate pain. One effective place to start is TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). This electric massage relaxes muscles where it counts: in the jaw. Most TMJ pain is muscular, and the network of muscles conveys symptoms through the body. TENS therefore can provide immediate pain reduction and control many TMJ symptoms. Long-term healing can then start with an orthotic, similar to a mouthguard. This keeps your jaw in a healthy, relaxed position that doesn’t stress muscles or joints.
You may have lived in Columbia, SC with TMJ symptoms for many years, but you don’t have to live with them any longer. To start your TMJ treatment, please call (803) 781-9090 or email Smile Columbia Dentistry today.