Mechanics of TMJ

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which connects your jaw to your skull. They sit on either side of your head, just below your years. Due to the movement required to chew and talk, this joint is especially intricate and contains a number of muscles as well as disks to facilitate the opening and closing of your mouth. When you experience pain, the culprits are usually one or both of these two groups: muscles that are too tight or disks that have been displaced.

Causes of Pain

When the TMJ is out of alignment or experiencing tense muscles, the condition is called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Most people call this disorder simply TMJ. A variety of factors can contribute to this condition, including:

  • Poor posture that causes your head to push forward for long periods of time
  • Injuries such as whiplash
  • Clenching your jaw regularly

If you’re experiencing frequent headaches, neck/shoulder pain, or grinding/popping when you open your mouth, you may have a TMJ disorder. A physician trained in treating TMJ neck pain and other complaints can pinpoint the cause of the disorder and develop a treatment plan specifically for your needs. Often, lifestyle changes can resolve the majority of your symptoms, but that isn’t always the case. You may need intervention from your Warren TMJ dentist.

Types of Jaw Pain

All jaw pain from TMJ isn’t the same. There are different reasons it can pop up. Types of jaw pain caused by TMJ are

  • Muscle jaw pain: This type of pain is the most common. It results from muscle overexertion, but it’s not like having sore muscles from working out. It’s more like an overworked muscle or a muscle stretched beyond its limits. Many people feel muscle pain in their jaw periodically if they are laughing a lot, smiling a lot, or grinding and clenching their teeth during a stressful situation. Many of these are situational so resting your jaw should do the trick. The problem arises when your jaw muscles are chronically or continuously contracted beyond their limits. This can push your jaw out of alignment, and your muscles will continue to be stained because they’re trying to push your jaw back into the correct position.
  • Pain in the jawbones: Do you clench and grind your teeth without knowing it? Many do, and it wears down their teeth. You may not think this affects your jaw, but after time, your jawbone will start to recede from the excessive pressure. This can be painful. You’ll likely have tooth pain accompanied by this type of jaw pain.
  • Jaw joint pain: Pain occurs because your jaw is slipping in and out of place. Do you hear popping sounds when you open your mouth wide? That is the sound of your jaw slipping out of its socket. Repeated slipping causes grinding that the joint to wear down, and puts pressure on ligaments that are supposed to keep your jaw in place.
  • Pinched nerve pain: Did you know that the largest cranial nerves run through your temporomandibular joint? If your jaw muscles or joints are inflamed, or your jaw is constantly slipping out of place, it can pinch nerves that run through the joint. This normally feels like a sharp pain, but it also can cause migraines, numbness, and tingling in your arms and fingers.

adult man holding jaw in pain

Treatment for Jaw Pain

TMJ treatment can take many different forms depending on the cause of your TMJ, your budget, and what your insurance will cover. At the Michigan Head and Neck Institute, we understand that your budget and insurance matter, so we try as much as possible to work within the limits of those constraints. Treatment options include,

  • TMJ Orthotic
  • Physical Therapy
  • Behavioral Therapy
  • Trigger Point Injections

Take Back Your Life With Treatment for Jaw Pain

If you’re suffering from pain caused by TMD, the Michigan Head and Neck Institute can help. We know how debilitating the disorder can be, and we understand how important it is for your quality of life that we find a solution to your pain. We are focused on treating TMJ problems as well as pain management. TMD is a very treatable condition that we can alleviate without surgery or other invasive procedures. To schedule a consultation with a TMJ specialist in Michigan, call us at (586) 573-0438 or make an appointment online.