If you regularly experience pain or tenderness in your jaw, you may have temporomandibular joint disorder. TMJ dysfunction and TMD both refer to temporomandibular joint disorder, which causes pain in the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull, and sometimes the pain can even extend out from the jaw and into the face and ears. TMD can make chewing painful and difficult, and it can also cause frequent headaches and make it hard to open and close your mouth.
The cause of this painful disorder varies from patient to patient. In some cases, it is caused by a jaw injury that causes the joint to move out of alignment. TMD is also caused by arthritis, genetics, and teeth grinding and clenching during sleep. Occasional teeth grinding is fairly common, but some patients unconsciously clench their teeth so hard during the night that they frequently wake up with jaw pain that prevents them from enjoying simple activities like eating and talking.
Fortunately, there are a number of non-invasive treatment options that patients can utilize to relieve their TMJ pain. There are at-home physical therapies that patients can do for a few minutes every day to stretch out their sore jaw muscles and relieve some of the tension that has built up there. Alternating between applying heat and ice to the jaw can help relax the muscles, and in some cases taking prescription muscle relaxants for a while can help prevent your teeth from clenching during the night.
If TMJ pain has been affecting the quality of your life, we also recommend utilizing a custom nightguard to offer your temporomandibular joint some relief. Nightguards hold the jaw in a comfortable position that prevents the teeth from grinding against each other, which not only prevents the muscles in the jaw from being overworked, but it helps protect the teeth as well.
Regularly using an oral appliance can keep you from waking up in pain and experiencing jaw soreness and frequent headaches throughout the day. If you would like to learn more about how a custom oral appliance can help relieve your TMJ pain, our team at Caring Smiles in Fort Collins, CO, would be happy to help.