Many people experience frequent headaches, earaches, neck and back pain, and/or facial soreness without understanding why. In many cases, the discomfort is severe enough to warrant a visit to the doctor in search of answers and relief, though medical attention does not always define or solve the problem. In fact, patients often go many years enduring their chronic aches and pains as a part of everyday life without realizing that the issue is a dental one. TMJ disorder describes a condition in which your jaw’s temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, have been damaged or misaligned, and can occur from a number of different dental issues (including crooked teeth, an improperly balanced jaw, or habitual teeth grinding, among others). Your Des Moines dentist, Dr. Stephen Burds, has extensive experience helping patients find relief from chronic TMJ disorder, and today he explains how you can determine if your discomfort may be TMJ related.
Listen to Your Jaw’s Joints
Your TMJs connect your lower jaw to the temporal bones located in front of each ear. When properly aligned, these gliding joints allow your jaw to move around smoothly as you go about biting, chewing, speaking, and laughing. When these joints become misaligned, however, they’re movements may not be as smooth, and a common sign of TMJ disorder is jaw popping and clicking when you move your mouth. If you hear and/or feel your jaw pop, especially if it occurs every time you open and close your mouth, then your jaw is likely misaligned and suffering from TMJ disorder.
Pay Attention to Your Jaw’s Actions
While crooked teeth can throw your bite off balance and lead to TMJ disorder, the jaw dysfunction can also develop from undue pressure when you habitually grind your teeth. Known as bruxism, habitual teeth-grinding can place more stress on your jaw’s joints and muscles than they were designed to withstand. The constant friction can also wear down your teeth, disturbing your bite’s balance and exacerbating the problem. If you catch yourself grinding your teeth often, take steps to consciously stop it, such as placing the tip of your tongue between your front teeth. Your natural survival instinct should automatically stop you from clamping (much less grinding) your teeth.
Watch Your Jaw Move
You can determine if your jaw is out of balance by watching it as it moves. Stand in front of a mirror and slowly open and close your mouth from a restful position, paying close attention to your jaw’s trajectory. If your lower jaw seems to move to the side, as if adjusting itself, rather than straight up and down, then it is likely imbalanced, and TMJ disorder is a much greater possibility.
Find Relief from TMJ Disorder with Your Des Moines Dentist
To learn more about TMJ disorder, or to find relief from your chronic aches and pains, contact us immediately to schedule an appointment with your Des Moines dentist by calling Gateway Dental Group at (515) 244-9565. Located in the 50309 area, we proudly welcome patients from Des Moines, River Bend, Kirkwood Glen, East Village, and neighboring communities.