Millions of Americans, especially women, report symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders, or TMDs. Unlike many oral health concerns that are easily diagnosed, the condition does not behave consistently from patient to another. A patient may experience one, few, or several symptoms, whereas another patient may present with no symptoms at all. These symptoms occur in varying intensity and often mimic the effects of other diseases not directly related to oral health. Dr. Ryan Hussong, a general dentist who diagnoses and treats jaw pain in Polk City, IA, offers hope for patients whose discomfort has adversely affected quality of life.
The Anatomy of Your Jaw
You have two TMJs, each located on either side of your head, connecting your lower jaw to the sides of your skull. The flexible joints give you the freedom to move your jaw from side to side, forward and backward, and opened and closed. Connective tissues and muscles surrounding the joint cushion your jaw during movement, such as speaking, yawning, and chewing your food. The jawbone glides along a grooved socket during movement, and the ends of your jaw are cushioned by a soft disc that works as a shock absorber. Each TMJ is unique among all the joints in your body. It doesn’t bear weight like your knees or hips, and it doesn’t have a limited range of motion like your elbows, ankles, and fingers. It’s the most complicated joint in the entire body, explains Dr. Hussong, and it only makes sense that these complications would make diagnosing the disorder a daunting task.
Three Types of Jaw and Joint Disorders
We can categorize these disorders in one of three ways. Internal derangement occurs when the jaw sustains damage as the result of dislocation or damage to the disc and supporting bones. Myofascial pain describes pain and discomfort that affects the muscles used to move your jaw. Degenerative and inflammatory disorders such as arthritis may also be to blame. You may have one or all of these joint problems. Whether you develop a TMJ disorder depends in part on any known medical conditions you might have. For example, studies suggest a link between fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and joints in the jaw. Some patients experience TMDs along with—or as the result of—teeth grinding, a condition called bruxism.
Know When to Seek Treatment for Jaw Pain
Some patients experience TMJ disorders for years, whereas others report symptoms lasting only a few weeks or month. The majority of cases do not require surgical intervention. Instead, Dr. Hussong may recommend wearing an oral splint while you sleep. The device holds your jaw in the proper position and protects your teeth from teeth grinding, which usually accompanies TMDs. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment:
- Stiffness in the jaw
- Pain that radiates from the jaw, face, or neck
- An inability to open your mouth or move your jaw
- Teeth that no longer fit together properly
- A popping, grinding, or clicking sound that accompanies jaw movements
Stop the pops. To learn more about treating TMJ disorders and teeth grinding, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ryan Hussong, contact Cornerstone Dental at (515) 984-6001. We welcome patients of all ages living in West Des Moines, Ankeny, Alleman, Polk City, and the surrounding areas.