(209) 526-0344
1429 College Avenue, Suite G
Modesto, CA 95350

TMJ Therapy in Modesto

Dentist Providing Jaw Pain Treatment

Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

You may spend most of your life completely unaware of the important little triangular-shaped joints located in front of each ear. Most of the time, they quietly do their job of joining your lower jaw with your skull’s temporal bone, and function to help you open your mouth. Each of these joints are lined with cartilage and thereby designed to move with a smooth, gliding motion. However, stress-related reactions can wear down that cartilage, exposing nerve endings and creating jaw pain. In fact, the temporomandibular joint is highly sensitive to your overall physical, emotional and psychological stress. What’s more, the joint itself is affected by the mechanics of your bite and the condition of your jaw muscles. So, a little extra stress, a little extra fatigue, a little change in your bite, and you may temporarily knock the whole system out of balance. That’s why it’s not uncommon in our fast-paced society to hear of people with temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly called TMJ disorder or TMD.

TMD can cause a wide variety of symptoms, from jaw clicking and minor discomfort to sharp pain in your temple, ear, jaws and teeth…even progressing down to the shoulder and arms. It can also prevent you from being able to fully open your mouth, “lock” your jaw open, or dislocate your jaw altogether.  Fortunately, however, very few people suffer from chronic or severe TMD. In fact, most of the symptoms can be alleviated with conscious and careful stress management.

Treatments for TMJ & Jaw Pain

If you’re diagnosed with TMD, you can do several things to improve your condition. First, remember the pain is more than likely going to be a temporary situation that will abate when your stress levels improve. Second, you may want to determine whether there are new and significant sources of stress in your life. Sudden changes in life circumstances can easily cause you to unconsciously clench or grind your teeth, eat more often or eat nervously, or generally retain tension in your jaw. Once you’ve identified the source of stress, consider ways to change either the situation or your management of it.

In the meantime, you can also take steps to alleviate the symptoms themselves. For example, avoid chewing gum or hard, chewy food, take small bites, and make sure you alternate chewing between both sides of your mouth. And remember, good nutrition will help the joint heal more quickly. As to your posture, be aware of how you sit during the day—keep your back straight and hold your head in a relaxed, upright position; avoid cradling a telephone between your head and shoulder; sleep on your side or back; and consider trying some slow, stretching exercises to alleviate stress. To relieve soreness, lightly massage your jaw and temple muscles to stimulate circulation and relax the muscles; for actual bouts of pain, moist heat for 20 minutes will further increase circulation.  Finally, over the counter anti-inflammatories or analgesics can be very helpful as well.