Jaw, aka TMJ or Temporomandibular joint problems are not uncommon, but knowing when to get them treated, and what treatments are appropriate is important. The temporomandibular joint is just in front of the ear, where the cheek bone and the jaw bone meet. This joint has an obvious hinge movement, but also can generate the sliding motions of chewing.

Problems with this joint occur from different causes. The most common cause occurs when the cushioning material in the joint wears out, from night-time grinding of the teeth. This cushioning material can also be worn down or damaged by arthritis, is damaged by trauma, or is out of alignment. Sometimes there is no obvious cause for TMJ problems.

Many people have occasional pain or tenderness, or a clicking sound when chewing. Most of these individuals do not need to seek of treatment for jaw problems. If this pain and tenderness becomes consistent or persistent, or if the jaw won’t open or close completely, this is the main indicator that getting medical attention from a doctor or a dentist is necessary. TMJ problems most often show up as pain or tenderness of the jaw, particularly aching pain in and around the ear. There is often discomfort or difficulty with chewing. There can be other facial pain, and locking of the jaw joint as well.

Figuring out if one has jaw problems can be expedited by answering a few questions to prepare for a visit to the dentist. Determining when the symptoms began, if it has happened before, and if there have been frequent headaches or toothaches during that same time can help the dentist determine more accurately what is going on. What one’s level of stress is, and if it has increased recently can help the dentist ferret out issues with grinding of the teeth. Also, a dentist will want to know if a patient is on supplements, vitamins, or other medications. They will typically ask if the jaw pain is constant or if the symptoms come and go, whether there is anything that makes them better or worse, or act as a trigger. They will ask about noises when moving the joint, and finally, about opening the mouth. Having the answers to these questions ready may help the dentist narrow down what the potential causes for the TMJ problem.

One of the most common treatments for jaw problems is a dental night guard, to cushion the jaw and teeth from grinding. However, a variety of treatments are available, including medications, devices such as the previously mentioned night guard, and surgery. Dr. Nahel Yanni is happy to consult with patients suffering from TMJ pain and discuss all of the options for successful diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Yanni offers the best in cosmetic and sedation dentistry at his office in East Brunswick, NJ.