“Ouch – I have TMJ!”

Yes you do! Otherwise your lower jaw would not be attached to the rest of your face. Many people suffer from a sore jaw and below we discuss some of the causes and what can be done to help.

TMJ is a common but incorrect phrase that people use to describe discomfort in the jaw region. The fact is, we all have a TMJ, it is just a fancy abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint. The TMJ is located on both sides of the head slightly in front of the ears, its primary function is to connect the lower jaw to the skull. 

TMD or TMJD on the other hand are the medically correct terms to express any pain in the jaw region. Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) or Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) can be used interchangeably. Otherwise, a simple ouch and point to the region will do the trick if you find these terms a bit of a tongue twister.

Here are some common causes of temporomandibular disorder:

Stress, bite misalignment, arthritis, osteoporosis, sinus complications, hay fever, head cold, habits of teeth clenching/grinding, or physical injury or trauma.

Here are some common symptoms:

Headaches, ear ache, pain with popping and clicking of the jaw when you open and close the mouth, joint stiffness, limited range of movement, locking joints, tooth pain.

Things to try out at home that may help relieve the discomfort:

Much like pain we experience with other joints and muscles in our body, there are some simple ways we might be able to manage the discomfort ourselves.

  • Rest and reset- avoid eating hard, chewy, and crunchy foods until the symptoms subside.  Liquids and softer foods cut up on a knife and fork or spoon are best for a short portion of time. Also avoid chewing gum.
  • Warm compression with a hot towel.
  • Take some over the counter pain relievers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – avoid relying on this long term and don’t exceed the daily recommended limit.
  • Gentle massage and jaw stretches at home.
  • Wearing a sports mouthguard at night – this is only a temporary solution. If you find that it helps to manage the discomfort, a night splint made by the dentist is a good long-term option.

Tried the above and the pain isn’t going away? Pain is progressively getting worse to the point where it is keeping you up at night or affecting your daily activities? Perhaps it is time to seek a professional opinion. We recommend for you to book a consultation with your dentist or mention it to your dental practitioner at your next routine dental check-up or hygiene maintenance appointments. They can help to assess the TMJ to see if treatment is necessary and refer if required. We may send you to see one or more of the following specialists: Oral surgeon, Physiotherapist, Osteopath, Chiropractor or an Orthodontist. Please remember that a sore TMJ can be due to many factors and can take some time to improve. For many people the discomfort may just get better with time on its own.