TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint. TMJ disorder, sometimes just called TMJ for short, is a painful but common condition that affects the joints that allow your jaws to move. TMJ can cause not only jaw pain, but also headaches, pain in the neck and even shoulder and back pain. That’s because of the complex nerve system that supplies sensation to the head and neck, which can send pain signals caused by TMJ to areas far from the source of the problem.

The temporomandibular joints are naturally designed for smooth movement, but because they do so much work throughout our lives, it is not uncommon for the natural design mechanism to wear down over time. Symptoms of TMJ disorder include jaw pain or difficulty opening or closing your mouth; clicking sounds coming from your jaws, pain when chewing; chronic headaches with no other apparent cause; neck or shoulder pain; and pain or soreness in your face.

The pain of TMJ can be treated temporarily with over-the-counter pain medications, but for more lasting relief, dental treatment could be advised. There are generally two types of dental treatment, depending on what is causing the TMJ symptoms. If the condition is caused by or contributed to by misaligned teeth or a bad bite, orthodontic treatment could help. But the most common treatment for TMJ by a dentist is the design of a special oral appliance. This is called a splint.

A splint is a comfortable appliance similar to a mouthguard. The splint is designed to fit precisely and position the jaws correctly for the temporary relief of pain and other symptoms of TMJ. You can wear the splint while sleeping and during the day.

Though a splint can provide relief from TMJ pain, it is not a cure. A splint is not an orthodontic appliance and will not change the bite or position of the teeth. If that type of change is needed to completely relieve TMJ symptoms, Dr. Hill may recommend braces, Invisalign or other orthodontic treatment.

Orthodontic treatment could provide a cure for TMJ. But in some rare cases, surgery may be required to completely correct the problem. In most cases of TMJ, pain is temporary or it comes and goes. Other options for pain relief include TENS nerve stimulation treatment or trigger-point injections.

Of course, not all headaches or face and neck pain are caused by TMJ disorder. A dentist can diagnose TMJ disorder by performing an oral examination and taking X-rays.

If you experience headaches, facial pain, neck pain, difficulty opening and closing your jaws or other TMJ symptoms, call Dr. Jessica Hill now. We can set up an appointment for you at our Alexandria office for an exam and to talk about TMJ and treatment options.

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