The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw to the skull. This connection occurs just beneath the ears on either side of the head. Each of these complex joints moves back and forth, up and down, and from side to side. The nearly constant use of this joint makes it is easy to see why temporomandibular disorders (TMD) develop. Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ) is one of these disorders.
What is TMJ?
This syndrome causes an individual to experience an array of bothersome symptoms, including pain. Knowing what triggers a TMJ flare up and then avoiding those triggers can help an individual prevent flare-ups of the temporomandibular joint.
The Importance of Attaining the Proper Diagnosis
Sometimes, temporomandibular disorders are difficult to diagnose because the symptoms a patient experiences mimic those associated with other conditions. To ensure a patient receives the most relevant treatment, attaining the proper diagnosis is essential. The experienced Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons at Heritage Oral Surgery and Implant Centers can quickly recognize the signs and symptoms that indicate a patient has a temporomandibular disorder.
Symptoms of a TMD can include:
- Intense headaches – characteristics of these headaches include a piercing pain, throbbing or a constant ache.
- Pain in the jaw with or without temporomandibular joint pain – this pain can range from mild to severe, be continuous or just come and go.
- Ear pain – can range from a dull ache to an intense, searing pain.
- Jaw popping or clicking – these symptoms typically occur while chewing, talking or opening the mouth.
- Tinnitus – ringing in the ears.
- Lockjaw – this problem occurs when the temporomandibular joints become misaligned. The individual is unable to open his or her mouth until the joints are properly realigned.
- Visible inflammation – seen in the temporomandibular joint that is affected.
A flare-up can occur without warning, however, seeking care from an experienced Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, and using the tips below can reduce the duration and intensity of a flare-up, or prevent them altogether.
6 Tips for Preventing a TMJ Flare Up
- Reduce Stress Levels
Stress can lead to the grinding or clenching of teeth. This additional pressure strains the facial muscles and the temporomandibular joints, causing irritation. Meditation and yoga are great ways to reduce stress.
- Stop Eating Foods that Are Chewy, Gummy or Hard
Eating hard, chewy or gummy candy as well as bagels, whole apples and nuts can cause a flare-up.
- Quit Overworking the Neck Muscles
The muscles responsible for controlling breathing, talking, biting, chewing and head posture work in conjunction with the muscles in the neck. If the neck muscles are tired and strained, other muscles must be used, which leads to an imbalance. This imbalance triggers the pain associated with TMJ.
- Avoid Becoming Dehydrated
Dehydration decreases the effectiveness of the body’s natural joint lubrication, which aggravates the joint and can lead to a TMJ flare-up. Avoiding caffeine, drinking plenty of water and eating foods with a high-water content (e.g., cucumbers, cantaloupe, tomatoes, etc.,) can help an individual remain well hydrated.
- Eat Well and Take a Daily Vitamin
If an individual’s Vitamin D level is deficient, he or she may experience muscle pain in the jaw.
- Use a Firm Pillow and Sleep on Your Back
By sleeping on the back with a pillow that offers an adequate amount of support for your head and neck, there is no pressure being placed on the jaw.
If you are experiencing pain in your jaw, or would like to learn more about the treatments for TMD, contact one of the Heritage Oral Surgery and Implant Centers below to schedule an appointment.
The Heritage Oral Surgery and Implant Centers are in:
- Valencia – Tel: 661-253-3500, 27450 Tourney Road, Suite 160.
- West Valley/Canoga Park – Tel: 818-703-8200, 22142 Sherman Way, Suite 201.
- Palmdale – Tel: 661-538-1400, 843 Auto Center Drive, Suite B.