Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is actually not a single, isolated disorder. It’s a group of problems involving the muscles and joints around the jaw. Symptoms include muscle pain while chewing, stiff jaw muscles, a jaw that becomes locked in place or has limited motion, and/or painful popping, clicking, or grating in the jaw’s joint while chewing or talking, just to name a few.
Your jaw may also come out of alignment, which can cause dental problems as your teeth grind unevenly. Unfortunately, though, there is no known cure for TMJ. Common causes include damaged joint cartilage due to trauma or arthritis, grinding or clenching teeth over a long period of time, and/or a dislocated jaw, but sometimes TMJ just seems to develop without any known cause. So, how can you avoid the problems that come along with this elusive disorder?
First and foremost, try not to subject your jaw to any trauma, as a blow to the face can cause TMJ. If you are under a lot of stress, you may find yourself clenching your jaw. If this happens, try to be aware of it and relax your jaw muscles. Gently massage your jaw joint, and take a deep breath.
If you’ve experienced a sore, dislocated, or locked jaw, you can help yourself heal and prevent further inflammation by consciously relaxing your facial muscles whenever you can and doing regular, slow, and gentle jaw exercises at home. These will help restore range of motion to your jaw and help it heal.
While you’re healing, you may also want to take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as Advil or Aleve, to help quell inflammation and allow you to relax your jaw muscles. Call our Holly Springs office and speak with Dr. Butts or his staff about other recommendations they may have for preventing TMJ problems.