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What Is TMJ?

What is TMJMany people may be confused when asked the question, “What is TMJ?” TMJ related disorders affect many Americans, especially women. These disorders can involve debilitating pain around the head, face, and jaw.

The TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, connects the jawbone to the skull with a sliding hinge. Using a complex sliding and hinge motion, this joint allows us to open our mouths to speak, chew food, and yawn. When complications occur around this jaw joint and the surrounding chewing muscles, it results in pain and irritation. Due to the complexity of the motion of this joint, treating TMJ related disorders can be difficult for many health care providers.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

When health professionals try to discover what is TMJ, they often closely consider the related symptoms surrounding these TMJ disorders. These symptoms include:

• Difficulty chewing
• Difficulty opening and closing the mouth due to a locking of the TMJ
• Pain, tenderness, or stiffness around the jaw
• Aching pain around the face, ear, jaw, or neck
• Irritating clicking or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth

Treatments for TMJ Disorders
Many treatments regarding the jaw joint still require further medical studies, so TMJ experts tend to recommend patients pursue reversible, non-invasive treatments. Most jaw joint problems tend to be temporary, so self-care treatments are often enough.

These self-care treatments include:

• Eating soft foods
• Avoiding wide yawning, gum chewing, and singing
• Working to relax and reduce stress levels
• Applying ice packs to the jaw and the surrounding area
• Gently stretching and relaxing the jaw to exercise the joint and facial muscles around it

Other Treatments for TMJ Disorders:

• Pain Medications
Over-the-counter Ibuprofen and Tylenol can often provide temporary relief from TMJ related pain. If necessary, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medication.
• Oral Appliances
Also called a bite guard, your doctor or dentist may recommend a plastic device that fits over your upper or lower teeth. These appliances are the most popular treatment for TMJ disorders. If you experience pain wearing your bite guard, tell your doctor.

Some may still be wondering, “what is TMJ?” Those wanting more answers regarding the TMJ and its related disorders should schedule a consultation with our TMJ expert.


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