Living with TMJ

As the world continues to grow and globalize, it seems like life gets more and more stressful by the minute. Schedules start to get full and quickly it seems like there isn’t enough time in the day to finish all the things you need to get done on top of work and home life. With workloads mounting, with the way we work changing, this results in less and less time for relaxation, less and less time for you to focus on spending quality time decompressing. This can mount and mount and stress can manifest itself in some serious ways.

This might be part of the reason why more and more cases of TMJ are on the rise in this day and age. In our current politically-charged, intensely competitive world, it’s important to address TMJ before it gets worse. Wilshire Smile Studio would like you to know that if you are a person who suffers from TMJ or know someone who does, there are some effective ways that you can prevent, relieve, or treat TMJ.

First, what is TMJ?
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (popularly known as TMJ) occurs when the hinge connecting the lower and the upper jaw ceases to work properly. This hinge of your jaw is considered among the most complex joints in your entire body. This hinge of your jaw alone carries the burden of moving your lower jaw in all of its directions. This is a uniquely complex system of muscles, bones, discs, and ligaments. Complications can arise with this complex system’s functionality, and often these complications are considered TMJ. TMJ can manifest itself with your jaw making a popping sound, clicking, or even getting “stuck” in one place for a moment or an extended period of time. It’s quite difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of an individual case of TMJ, but we do know of some common contributing factors:

Bruxism or constant clenching of the jaw which creates trauma
Being struck in the jaw in any way can also lead to TMJ
Normal, everyday wear and tear from eating, speaking, clenching
TMJ can come about due to aging
TMJ can also come about from disease

TMJ symptoms can include:
Clicking and popping of the jaw joints
Jaw getting stuck or locking in one place
Pain or discomfort in the cheek and jaw muscles
Regularly occurring headaches and migraines which might vary in frequency and duration
Clenching or teeth grinding at night
Inability to open jaw smoothly or evenly, or experiencing discomfort in doing so
The jaw might also deviate to one side or another when opening or closing
Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears)
Cervical Pain
Tension Headaches
Vertigo
Nervousness/Insomnia

You might not be aware of this fact, but your jaw muscles can often be among the most tense in your body. Think about the last time you were mad or stressed, what are the chances that you clenched your jaw? It can even start out as a minor jaw problem, but without addressing it, TMJ can turn chronic (long-lasting or perpetually lasting).

Whether you experience some of these symptoms and would like relief, or if you would simply like to avoid developing TMJ, Wilshire Smile Studio would like to suggest some ways that you can properly care for your jaw, ensuring its functionality as you advance through life.

You can eliminate muscle spasms by applying moist heat to your jaw at the end of the day, or whenever you experience stress or pain. Prescription medications such as muscle relaxants can also help. Over the counter remedies like aspirin and other pain relief medication and anti-inflammatories can also go a long way.

Wilshire Smile Studio offers dentist-grade and approved appliances which can help significantly reduce the harmful side effects that clenching and grinding at night can yield. At night it is especially important to use appliances, because of the simple fact that you can’t control what you do in your sleep. Bite plates or splints are popular terms used for these dental guards. We can custom-fit these to your individual mouth, slipping them over your upper teeth. This prevents grinding against the lower teeth, which reduces TMJ side effects and promotes good oral health in the process!

Learn and execute relaxation techniques that you find work for you. Physical rehabilitation, sleep therapy, or special training might also be necessary. Counseling can also be an effective and viable solution to stress relief.

Monitoring your food intake and eating softer foods (and staying away from hard foods, hard candies, almonds, sticky foods like taffy, peanut brittle, and even extra crunchy potato chips) can significantly reduce pain and discomfort in your jaw.

Get used to avoiding chewing gum. Opt for breath mints, but make sure not to chew on them. If you are able, try to limit the times you open your mouth wide. Save that for your Wilshire Smile Studio visits!

You can learn therapeutic mandible (lower jaw) movements which can drastically reduce pain and symptoms of your TMJ.

Of course Wilshire Smile Studio is always here if you have any additional lingering questions about TMJ. If you’ve tried these various remedies and your symptoms persist, we recommend that you schedule a consultation with Wilshire Smile Studio today.