Temporomandibular joints (we each have two) are found where the jaw bone meets the skull – right next to your ear on each side.  People with Temporomandibular disorders often have ongoing pain near the ear, the jaw, or the muscles on the side of the face.  They may also hear clicking or popping while opening and closing their mouths, or have some restricted jaw movement.  As with any other joint in our bodies, the TMJ can be subject to orthopedic problems: inflammation, sore muscles, strained ligaments and tendons, etc.  Physical and psychological stress can also affect the TMJ causing pain and discomfort.

So what should you do if you experience any or all of the above?  First and foremost, talk to Dr. Degnen and let her know what’s happening.  Clicking sounds alone might be nothing, but if they are associated with pain or limited mobility of your jaw, you definitely want to let her know.   Sore or stiff jaw muscles in the morning could be caused by clenching or grinding your teeth at night.  A simple mouthguard might be all you need to help your jaw muscles relax.  Causes for soreness at the jaw joint could be brought on by a variety of things.  All the more reason you need to make regular cleanings and checkups part of your healthcare routine.

Once you’ve been examined, Dr. Degnen can put together a strategy for treating your condition and managing your discomfort.  Often it’s as simple as changing to a softer diet for a while to relieve the stress on the joints and muscles.  Ice and moist heat applications can help to reduce inflammation and soreness.  Although rare, some TMD cases are severe and require a more complex approach involving orthodontics, bridgework, possible injections or surgery.   It’s always best to first try conservative and reversible treatments and give them enough time to work.

If you are having TMD problems, make an appointment for a thorough examination.

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