Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders can cause a lot of pain, discomfort, and even urgent situations when your jaw locks into place and won’t open or close fully. Fortunately, a dentist can often help with this common dysfunction of the TMJ.
At ChapmanSmiles Orthodontics in Happy Valley, Clackamas, Oregon, orthodontist Dr. Gary Chapman evaluates TMJ pain to see if your issue can be resolved with a dental appliance to correct a misaligned bite.
Your jaw is hinged to open and shut smoothly. If the hinges, also known as temporomandibular joints, are damaged or misaligned, the jaw can get stuck or feel like it’s clicking or popping. When this happens, muscles and connective tissues around the joint can stiffen or spasm, causing acute or throbbing pain.
There are several types of TMJ disorders. Some people experience mild TMJ due to bruxism (teeth grinding). Others suffer with severe pain due to misalignment of the jaw or even advanced arthritis.
The following are common TMJ symptoms:
- Frequent tenderness or aching on one or both sides of the jaw
- Radiating pain that extends from the TMJ into the face, head, or ear(s)
- A feeling of popping or clicking when you chew or speak
- Experiencing your jaw getting locked in an open or closed position
If you experience any of these, it’s time to talk to your dentist.
Will TMJ resolve on its own?
While there are rare cases when TMJ may self-resolve (the most common reason being adolescents who suffer from TMJ, but whose jaw then grows and their bite realigns), in most cases, you’ll need intervention.
Our diagnostic process for TMJ disorders starts with a complete physical examination of the jaw to see your range of motion, listen for any sounds that indicate the hinge is catching or clicking, and identify areas of pain or tenderness.
We might do some more tests to further develop a clear picture of what’s going on with your jaw and bite. A full set of X-rays can be done in our office. If we suspect soft tissue or cartilage damage, we may refer you out for a CT scan or an MRI to get a better picture of any damage that may have been done.
If your TMJ pain is caused by orthodontic issues, we can start creating a plan to realign your teeth and fix your bite. Some avenues to correct TMJ issues include braces or clear aligners to correct alignment, and/or custom mouthguards to position your jaw correctly and minimize bruxism.
To learn more and to find relief from TMJ pain, schedule a consultation with Dr. Chapman by calling 503-336-1883, or request an appointment online.