“My Jaw Hurts Constantly… How Do I Get Relief?”
What is TMJ Disorder and How Does It Affect Oral Health?
The TMJ or temporomandibular joint is what allows your mouth to open and close, as well as speak and chew normally. It’s an intricate, complex network of muscles and joints which contributes to the movement of both your jaw and mouth. The TMJ is located on each side of the head and connects the upper part of the head to the mobile jawbone (mandible). Each temporomandibular joint has a delicate disc separating a ball and socket mechanism, similar to the knee or shoulder joint. The disc cushions the pressure while the jaw opens and rotates. If a problem occurs in this complex musculoskeletal system, it can feel extremely painful and tense.
TMJ can be a serious concern when it comes to your oral health because it often is accompanied by problems with grinding or clenching your teeth and jaw misalignment. For this reason, it’s important to have it treated promptly before the problems become long-term and irreversible.
Being able to move your jaw without pain can seem like a dream come true when you’ve been struggling with TMJ disorder (sometimes just called TMJ). When you start to feel pain in your jaw and mouth from chewing, yawning, or talking, you’ll likely notice it constantly. This pain can usually mean something is affecting your TMJ. TMJ disorder is a common condition that affects millions of Americans, but the good news is that it can be treated easily with the help of your dentist. In Midtown Manhattan, Dr. Inna Chern and her team offer treatments for TMJ disorders to New York patients looking for relief.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
Jaw Pain and Clicking
One of the most reported symptoms of TMJ disorder is discomfort, especially when chewing. This pain is usually located in the jaw joint on one or both sides of the head and is usually the result of inflammation. Another common symptom is jaw clicking accompanying the pain and a “tired” feeling in the face, neck, shoulder, and upper back region.
Chronic Headaches and Migraines
Some TMJ sufferers experience headaches and migraines as a result of chronic TMJ issues. These are usually caused by tension and inflammation of the delicate muscles that make up the TMJ which include the elevator muscles (responsible for closing the jaw) and the lateral pterygoid (hold the jaw in position so that the teeth can meet).
In some severe cases, the jaw can become locked in place because of inflammation of the disc, making it difficult to open or close your mouth all the way. It can also get “stuck” in place when trying to open your mouth too wide. The locking occurs when the disc separating the upper and lower bones of the TMJ gets caught in a position that does not allow the joint to move. Often, the dislocation of the disc needs to be adjusted by your dentist and can be very painful.
Ear, Sinus, and Neck Pain
It’s common for TMJ pain to radiate to other areas of the body including the ears, sinuses, neck, and shoulders. If you experience tension or achiness in these areas, it can be the result of a TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder can also cause symptoms like tinnitus, or ear ringing.
Did You Know:
Nearly 60% of patients report some form of TMJ pain starting as young as 7 years old!
TMJ Disorder Treatments and What to Expect
Using devices such as mouthguards, oral splints, and oral deprogrammers can help prevent damage to your teeth and joints associated with TMJ disorders as well as bruxism. Additionally, they can help to support and stabilize your muscles and joints to keep your teeth in the correct place when you close your mouth, as well as “guide” your jaw into a more natural position when closing your mouth.
Medications and Botox Treatment
There are a number of medications that can be helpful in treating TMJ disorders and relieving symptoms such as muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and even Botox. Botox can prevent muscle movements through neuromodulation, meaning the TMJ can effectively recover from inflammation and discomfort in the meantime. Botox therapy is excellent for acute pain and lasts 3-5 months.
Relaxation Techniques, Strengthening Exercises, and Massage
Special exercises can help you get relief at home by relaxing the joints and muscles and reducing inflammation. With regular use, these exercises can train the jaw muscles to move without discomfort and relieve tension. Performing a series of exercises for approximately 5-10 minutes each day can stretch the muscles and relax the surrounding areas.
Lifestyle changes can help manage TMJ disorders and relieve symptoms. In most cases, TMJ disorders go hand-in-hand with stress, so managing stress in your lifestyle can be a great way to start. These changes can also include managing discomfort (and reducing inflammation) with hot or cold packs, avoiding gum or chewy candy, and eating softer foods regularly.
TMJ Disorder Outcomes
In many cases, TMJ disorder is a short-term problem that can be managed with the right steps. That means it will subside over time and you’ll get relief from symptoms with a customized care plan. You may need to take some steps to ensure it doesn’t come back by managing stress and preventing bruxism in the meantime. Dr. Chern will discuss all your options and formulate a treatment plan that suits your needs.
TMJ Treatment FAQ’s
Can a bad bite cause TMJ?
A bad orientation of your bite can over time cause damage to your teeth, TMJ and ability to oxygenate.
Can a dentist tell if you have TMJ?
A part of your first visit with a dentist should include an extensive TMJ exam to evaluate how the muscles and bones of the joint are functioning. If there is pain during any part of your TMJ exam then you may have TMD (disorder of the TMJ).
Can a night guard make TMJ worse?
A nigh guard should improve pain associated with TMJ but an improperly made night guard make TMJ worse. In 20-30 percent of patients, an appliance can exacerbate clenching, also making TMJ pain worse.
Can TMJ affect balance?
The TMJ is close to the ear apparatus and a poorly aligned jaw can cause pressure and inflammation on the balance organs in your inner ear, reducing their ability to function and causing balance issues such as vertigo.
Can TMJ affect eustachian tube?
The eustachian tube is located behind the TMJ and inflammation of the TMJ can cause blockage in the Eustachian tubes.
Can massage therapy help with TMJ?
If the pain associated with TMJ is caused by a muscular tension issue then massage is a great way to alleviate the tension in the muscles and reduce pain in the TMJ.
Can TMJ make your ears feel clogged?
Inflammation in the TMJ can cause blockage of the Eustachian tubes in the ear causing a clogged feeling.
Do mouthguards help with TMJ?
A mouthguard will improve pain associated with TMJ but an improperly made mouthguard may worsen TMJ symptoms. In 20-30 percent of patients, a mouthguard may increase clenching and cause further issues.
Does drinking water help TMJ?
Drinking water throughout the day will help your body stay hydrated, lubricate your joints and aid in the relaxation of the muscles in your jaw, helping to alleviate TMJ issues.
Does TMJ get worse with age?
If not treated early, TMJ issues can get worse as we age. The continuous use of the joint can cause irreparable damage to the bones, muscles and delicate disc (meniscus).
How do you stop a TMJ flare up?
If you have an appliance, it's crucial to wear it as soon as possible when a flare up occurs. Other recommendations to alleviate an acute TMJ flare up include eating a soft diet, taking an NSAID, TMJ massage and avoiding opening the jaws very wide.
How long does it take for TMJ to go away?
TMJ can be managed and resolved but the duration and resolution depend on the source of the pain (muscle vs skeletal vs occlusal) and timely intervention and correction of occlusal disharmonies.
Is heat or ice better for TMJ?
They function differently so which is better depends on the symptoms. Ice reduces swelling and pain and heat relaxes muscles, improving blood flow.
Is it TMJ or tooth infection?
TMJ pain and an infected tooth can present with similar painful symptoms.nIt is important to see your dentist for proper diagnosis and treatment with a thorough clinical exam and radiology.
What is a good muscle relaxer for TMJ?
Benzodiazepines, Skelaxin and Flexeril are excellent for relaxation of the muscles associated with TMJ pain.
What is the best treatment for TMJ?
The best treatment for TMJ is to see your dentist for a thorough exam and diagnosis of the etiology of disorder in the joint. TMJ pain has many possible causes so there is no one size fits all treatment. Treatment often involves a combination of deprogrammers, appliances, changes in bite, Botox and surgery.
What kind of doctor do I see for TMJ pain?
You can see a general dentist but for more severe cases, there is a subspecialty of dentists who solely treat TMJ disorders.
What muscle relaxer is best for TMJ?
Benzodiazepines and Flexeril are excellent for TMJ muscle relaxation.
Why does TMJ cause ear pain?
The TMJ is in very close proximity to the ear apparatus and any inflammation in the TMJ can refer pain to the ear.
What will happen if TMJ is not treated?
Unfortunately, untreated TMJ will only get worse and potentially cause shifts in the bite, fractured teeth, damage to muscles and bones in the head and jaw.
What will a dentist do for TMJ?
After diagnosing the source of the TMJ problem, a dentist may recommend one or more of the following treatments: deprogrammers, oral appliances, bite changes (equilibration), Botox therapy, Muscle relaxer therapy, orthodontics and in some cases surgery to the jaws.
How can I prevent TMJ at night?
If you suffer from nighttime grinding or clenching, it is important to get a deprogrammer or night guard appliance fabricated by your dentist.
Is TMJ a form of arthritis?
Arthritis in the joint can cause TMJ disorders and pain.
What causes TMJ flare ups?
Flare ups can occur with no definite etiology but common causes include muscle spasm, eating difficult to eat foods (nuts, hard foods), opening your mouth too wide,, chewing gum, trauma, grinding and clenching.
Is TMJ a disability?
TMJ can be quite debilitating and painful. If it effects your ability to work or function, it can be deemed a disability.
Is there a surgery for TMJ?
If there are anatomical issues that are causing TMJ then a surgeon can fix those issues and restore harmony.
How do doctors fix TMJ?
Medical doctors often refer patients with TMJ to their dentist, ENT or TMJ specializing dentist.
How do you get rid of TMJ headaches?
TMJ headaches are an acute flare up of TMJ. Wearing an oral appliance, massage and NSAID medications can help alleviate the headache.
Can TMJ cause nerve pain?
TMJ pain is associated with the onset of issues with some of the nerves in the head (trigeminal nerve V) which can contribute to facial paresthesia, dysesthesia or hypoesthesia, headache, toothache, and ear sounds.
Can TMJ feel like a sinus infection?
TMJ pain can be mixed up with a sinus issue if the pain is localized to the temporal region. On some occasions patients have both issues at the same time causing an increased level of pain and a difficult time differentiating the source of their discomfort.
Does TMJ go away?
TMJ disorders can be acute and eventually go into a chronic state which may seem like they have gone away until a flare up occurs. The source of the TMJ is important to fix as soon as possible before major damage to the joint or bite occur.
What Makes Our Office the Right Fit for Your Dental Needs?
There are many different factors that can contribute to TMJ disorders, so we can create a comprehensive treatment approach so you get long-term relief.
Our goal is to make you feel comfortable and relaxed while we provide exceptional care. That’s why we provide a modern and bright atmosphere with amenities to help you feel at ease.
Your health is our top priority, so we use only the best and latest techniques and therapies to get you effective treatment.
Meet With Dr. Chern &
Her Manhattan Team
TMJ disorder can make it hard to enjoy the things you love most. If you’re looking for the best in treatments and ways to get relief, our team can help. We invite you to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chern and our team by calling 212-838-0842 or filling out our online form.
“I have been Dr. Chern’s patient for several years now and I have no intention of ever finding another dentist. When you find an amazing dentist, you stick with them. She’s honest, professional, and knows what she’s doing. Her staff is just as amazing.”– David K.
Our New York City Office
Sundays – Available by request for special cases and dental emergencies
“One of the most wonderful dentists I have ever been to. Inna is kind, compassionate, and truly cares about her patients. I was always afraid of dentists until I met Inna. Highly recommend her for any dentistry needs – and if you would like your dentist to be your new best friend!”– Abhi G.