Some people in Phoenix greet the morning with a yawn and a smile, while others emit a groan. But if you consistently wake up with a pounding headache, sore facial or neck muscles, then your mornings may be ruined by a problem with the joint that makes your jaw work.
If this describes you, you should first and foremost feel assured that relief is not beyond your reach. You don't have to live with chronic pain and muscle tension, and it's better that you don't. The sooner you treat any problematic medical condition, the better off you'll be in the long run. But before you can grasp the solution, it's good to start with the problem.
The Anatomy of Your TMJ
If your body were show business, your jaw is James Brown; the hardest working man in town. You open and close your mouth hundreds of times each day when eating, talking, yawning, and chewing gum. This usage is why many consider your TMJ the most used joint in the body.
But what exactly is your TMJ? The term is an acronym that stands for Temporomandibular Joint, which though quite a mouthful, describes precisely what it does. The joint connects your mandible, or your lower jaw, with your temporal bone.
Your two TMJs (you have one on each side of your head) consist of a ball at the end of your mandible, which fits into a socket in your temporal bone. These two bones are separated by a soft disc of tissue similar to what separates the vertebrae in your spine. The disc cushions the joint, lessen friction and allows your jaw to open at various levels and in all directions as needed.
TMJ Problems Cause Jaw Pain and Worse
If your TMJ is not functioning as nature intended, your may experience any combination of the following symptoms:
- Jaw pain and soreness
- Persistent headaches
- Popping or clicking in your jaw
- Pain while opening and closing your jaw
- Tinnitus, or constant ringing in your ears
The causes of TMJ problems are not always clear and may be connected to other skeletal conditions like arthritis. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, they have found no evidence that orthodontic braces cause TMJ disorders.
How We Treat Your TMJ Disorder
At Arcadia Dentistry, Dr. Mathew Milana has extensive experience treating patients with TMJ issues and has found that a full-faceted approach is the most effective. This means he might recommend a combination of treatments depending on the complexity of your case. Each therapy has a particular avenue.
Pain Medication and Muscle Relaxants
One approach to TMJ Disorders is to utilize medications to relieve muscle pain and strain. This can be especially helpful in the early phases of treatment, where addressing immediate suffering is the top priority. One class of medication you might use is NSAIDs, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs available over-the-counter or by prescription, depending on the strength you require.
In some cases, Dr. Milana might add a muscle relaxant to complement pain relievers, which effectively resolves long-standing muscle contraction that may otherwise be difficult to release. In addition, medication treatment intends that eliminating the stress caused by pain and tension will enhance the impact of other therapies.
Another form of medical intervention comes with a different delivery mechanism. Instead of taking medication orally, it can be injected directly into your jaw for acute and immediate relief. Inflammation is similar to pain in that its existence interferes with other therapies so that once it's resolved, the problem diminishes as well. However, inflammation also can do long-term damage to joints, so reducing it should also be a priority.
A physical TMJ treatment option is a dental appliance made to fit your mouth comfortably and snugly. You will wear this appliance, also called a nightguard, while you sleep. Your nightguard is designed to support your jaw in a slightly open position, which relieves joint pressure. Over time, this also helps reduce inflammation, lessening discomfort without the need for medication.
Like nightguards, Dr. Milana can also recommend relaxation techniques to help moderate tension in your jaw muscles. To complement more conventional treatments, you can add these to meditation and other behavioral moderations, often recommended just before bedtime.
Treating TMJ Disorders in Phoenix, AZ
Jaw pain can be a debilitating condition caused by problems with your TMJ. Call our office today to schedule an appointment with our experienced dental team. We can diagnose the problem and find the treatments that will serve you best.