TMJ jaw pain is an incredibly bad wake up call. TMJ or Temporomandibular joint is the joint where the upper and lower jaw bones meet in a hinge like joint, just in front of the ear. It functions as a hinge, but also is able to perform a sliding motion, to aid in the action of chewing. Elaborate musculature is in place to assist in both of these movements. TMJ jaw pain is a common ailment, and results from a variety of different sources. Not every case of TMJ requires treatment, but many do, and being informed can help solve problems before they become overwhelming. It is simply a matter of degree.

TMJ jaw pain is caused by a variety of things. Most often, the exact cause is not known. But the resulting damage involves the cushioning tissue in the TMJ joint. It wears out from night time teeth grinding, arthritis, trauma, or alignment problems.

If the TMJ is clicking when chewing, or is only occasionally tender, it is usually not necessary to see the dentist. But frequent or persistent clicking or tenderness, or other symptoms occur such as jaw movement problems, a doctor or dentist appointment would be wise, as this indicates the problem has gotten worse. A locking jaw is an advanced sign.

So the trick is, for the dentist to figure out the cause of the TMJ jaw pain. If he can do this, it is the most effective way for him to design a treatment. Patients should know the answers to a number of questions before going to the dentist, as this information can help him make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. The dentist will ask about the symptoms. What they are, when they started, if anything changes them, if they’ve gotten worse over time or occurred before, and whether the TMJ problem came with a headache or toothache. Stress levels are often a factor, and a patient should tell the dentist about any extraordinary stressors they may have experienced. Stress can contribute to grinding of the teeth, which is a common cause of TMJ problems. Doctors and dentists both should know if a patient is on any medications, vitamins, or over the counter drugs.

Dental night guards are a common treatment for TMJ jaw pain, even if the source of the problem has not been identified. Often, patients are not aware of their night time teeth grinding activity, and the dental night guard can help reduce the damage that is done each night. Dr. Yanni is very knowledgeable regarding TMJ disorder and its treatment with dental night guards. He is always welcoming new patients and is happy to answer any questions about TMJ jaw pain and any other sedation dentistry questions.