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Q&A: Your TMJ Questions Answered

mature woman holding her forehead in pain
Gaining a new ailment unearths many questions. It can be worrisome to discover a new ache, pain, or an area that seems swollen, but we have you covered when it comes to TMJ. Our dental office in Woburn and Winchester has been treating TMJ since the inception of his practice. Dr. Clancy has advanced training that allows him to understand that TMJ doesn’t just hurt; it affects other parts of your body in ways that medical professionals easily miss. Dr. Clancy treats your whole health, not just your teeth. He’ll find the root cause of your TMJ and treat it so you can live pain-free. Here are some common and less common questions and answers about TMJ.

What is TMJ?

First, we’ll start with an obvious one. What is TMJ? TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It’s the joint connecting your mandible (jaw) to your skull. It sits just below your ears on either side of your head. When you experience pain in one of these joints, it’s called Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD), but many people simply call it TMJ.

Your jaw joint can become displaced, which causes your pain. You might feel pain in your jaw, ears, head, face, neck, and shoulders, as well as other symptoms such as jaw popping or clicking, ear ringing, tingling fingers, and vertigo or dizziness.

What Causes TMJ?

TMJ is caused by a misaligned jaw joint. This can happen for several reasons, including trauma, bruxism (grinding and clenching), stress, genetics, osteoporosis, or arthritis. In many cases, your jaw pain will go away, especially if the situation is temporary, like trauma or a period of intense stress. With that said, stress and bruxism can quickly become a habit you aren’t unaware of. Over time, this will wear down your teeth, cause swelling at the joint, pinch nerves, and push your jaw out of alignment. In this case and a genetic situation, we can provide a long-term solution to your TMJ without jaw surgery: full mouth reconstruction and/or epigenetic orthodontics.

Our TMJ approach is custom to each patient because not every patient’s jaw is out of alignment in the same way. Call (781) 396-8558 or make an appointment online with Dr. Clancy for a consultation regarding your TMJ.

Can TMJ Cause Swelling In Your Face?

Yes, TMJ can cause swelling in your face though this symptom is uncommon. The swelling usually happens from overuse (grinding and clenching) which causes inflammation and most likely joint damage. Your swelling can be minor or severe, and it could be persistent or only after intense use. If you experience swelling in your face and pain, contact your Woburn and Winchester TMJ dentist. Swelling in your face is likely a sign of joint damage, and you want to stop the damage before it worsens.

Why Does My Jaw Hurt When I Open My Mouth?

Jaw pain when opening and closing your mouth is a common symptom of TMJ. It’s often one of the first to alert people of an issue. If you open your mouth wide and experience pain as well as popping and clicking noises in your ears, your jaw joint is slipping in and out of place, wearing down the bone. Eventually, your jaw may even lock in an open or closed position due to joint damage. This is called ‘locked jaw.’ If you have a locked jaw, don’t try to close your jaw on your own. Not only will it be excruciating, but you may damage your joint further. Always contact your TMJ dentist in the Woburn and Winchester area for assistance.

If you don’t hear clicking and popping when you open your mouth, but your jaw still hurts, your pain is likely from swelling or nerve damage around the joint.

Why Is My Jaw Uneven?

Do your teeth not line up correctly? It could be that your jaw is misaligned, caused by TMJ. When you develop a habit like clenching and grinding your teeth, your teeth wear down and no longer hold your jaw in the proper position. Over time, your jaw will slip out of place, and you’ll feel pain in your jaw joint. In this instance, we recommend a full mouth reconstruction.

It’s also possible that you were born with improper tooth positioning. TMJ pain could be your constant companion when your teeth are severely misaligned, or you have a bite issue from birth. Here, we recommend epigenetic orthodontics.

Why Does My Jaw Hurt When I Run?

Sometimes our jaw pain creeps up when we least expect it. Do you experience jaw pain when performing physical activities, such as running? You aren’t alone. Many people with TMJ experience jaw and head pain when physically exerting themselves. Something high-impact like running and jumping jolts your jaw joint and can cause pain and swelling. The muscles in your jaw can also become fatigued when performing high-impact activities because they’re your jaw’s only support.

Treat Your TMJ in the Woburn and Winchester

After patients receive TMJ treatment, the main thing we hear is how their quality of life has increased significantly. Does TMJ rule your life? It doesn’t have it. Call (781) 396-8558 or make an appointment online today.

By Ryan M. Clancy, DMD, MAGD, LVIF, FPFA, FIAPA | May 3rd, 2022 | TMJ

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