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Your jaw is made for chewing and talking, but overstraining it can cause TMJ symptoms like popping, clicking, and occasionally locking open or closed. That can be scary! So how do you know if you have TMJ disorder? Can it be corrected? Keep reading for helpful information.

TMJ jaw pain

What is TMJ (or TMD)?

There are a few reasons why your jaw may be popping and clicking and one very common reason is your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). You have two on each side of your jaw that attach the bottom of the jaw to the skull. The muscles surrounding these joints allow you to open and close your mouth but when they get out of line – or for some reason aren’t moving as they should – you can develop TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) more commonly called TMJ disorder. Roughly 15% of adults in their 20-40s have this problem and it is seen more frequently in women than in men.

Your TMJ is an incredible joint – one of the most complex in your body. It allows the mouth to open and close, move side-to-side, and back and forth. Along with the surrounding bones and muscles there’s a small piece of cartilage that functions as a shock absorber to protect the bones from wear and tear.

Symptoms of having TMJ pain:

  • Pain in one or both of your jaw joints

  • Earaches

  • Pain when you chew

  • Pain in your face or neck

  • Stiffness in the muscles in your jaw

  • A change in how your teeth fit together

  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth

(Please note, a clicking sound alone isn’t necessarily a sign of TMD unless you are also experiencing one or more of the symptoms listed above.)

Common Causes of TMJ disorder:

Figuring out the cause(s) of TMJ pain isn’t always possible. There are numerous reasons for the disorder but some of the reasons could be:

  • Clenching your jaw for a lengthy period of time.

  • Cartilage in the joint slipping out of place

  • Grinding of the teeth

  • Injury or dislocation of the jaw

  • Teeth or jaw that don’t align correctly

  • Arthritis damaging the cartilage in the joint

  • Unusual stress, strain, or overextension of the jaw

Diagnosing TMJ Pain:

When patients come to Chesney Dentistry with symptoms related to TMJ disorder, Dr. Nathan Chesney tells us what you can expect. He says, “It is very important to us to properly diagnose problems our patients are having with jaw pain. We will perform an exam and ask our patients what symptoms they are experiencing as well as determine if there is irritation in the jaw. We will request the patient move their jaw in several different directions as we feel and observe the range of motion, listen for “clicking” or “popping,” and in some cases we may recommend an x-ray so we can get a picture of the temporomandibular joint.” If you are experiencing popping, clicking, or pain in your jaw – schedule your appointment at Chesney Dentistry today!

Treating TMJ Disorder

Treating TMJ Disorder:

After we diagnose the problem, we will recommend a treatment for resolving the TMJ pain or refer you to a specialist (if it is related to a cause outside our expertise). Treatments to correct TMJ pain can range from deliberately relaxing your jaw when you notice it starting to clench, eating softer foods, taking a break from chewing gum, exercising your jaw, along with other treatment recommendations.

Dr. John Mark Chesney is a Physical Therapist at Simply Physio in Knoxville, TN and he says, “Usually people will complain of popping or clicking and frequently that is where the disc is having trouble staying where it should.” He sees patients whose TMJ disorder can be improved with some simple physical therapy or posture changes. Even something as simple as changing your posture while brushing your teeth can have a significant impact on your jaw. Dr. John Mark Chesney, PT, shares with us some helpful tips on how to make sure you have the correct posture while brushing your teeth. If you are experiencing pain in your jaw you can try these recommendations and possibly start getting some relief. Watch the informative video here. He also has a FREE tips guide on Overcoming TMJ Disorder. You can download the guide here.

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TMD is not a permanent condition and just changing some of your habits can often help a lot. The simplest way to correct TMJ is with lifestyle changes like decreasing stress, being conscious not to clench your jaw during the day, stop resting your chin on your hand, or stop chewing gum. In some cases it may be necessary to have a painkiller or muscle relaxer prescribed, have a plastic mouth guard made to wear at night, braces to fix an uneven bite, and, in more serious cases, a surgery may be required.

TMJ disorder is certainly uncomfortable and can even be painful. If you are experiencing discomfort, pain, popping or clicking in your jaw, make sure to schedule an appointment at Chesney Dentistry today, or mention it to your dental hygienist at your next regularly-scheduled dental cleaning appointment. We’ll be sure to help you resolve it. Correcting the problem before it gets worse can speed up the recovery time. Contact our office West Knoxville Office at 865-966-7441 or North Knoxville Office at 865-688-4112.

-Chesney Dentistry