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Temporomandibular (Jaw) Joint Problems

Temporomandibular (jaw) joint problems

What are they?

The joint between your upper and lower jaws, just in front of your ears is called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ for short). Cartilage (a gristly substance), separates the bone surfaces. The jaw joints can occasionally cause problems which your dentist can help diagnose and treat.

What are the symptoms?

  • Clicking or grating noises when you move your jaw

  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth

  • Swelling or tenderness over the joint

  • Pain in the face, neck and chewing muscles ( some people also have pain in shoulders and back)

  • Headaches or migraines especially first thing in the morning

  • Pain in your ear, possibly with ringing noises

Clicking or grating noises are usually down to the cartilage jumping when you open your mouth. The problem can be addressed by

  • Cutting up food in to small pieces

  • Avoiding very chewy foods

  • Avoiding very hard foods

  • Trying not to open your mouth too wide – for example when you yawn

Jaw pain is usually the result of increased tension in the jaw muscles. Factors involved in this include

  • Grinding or clenching your teeth, in your sleep or during the day

  • Habits such as biting your nails or chewing a pen

These are often related to fatigue, stress and anxiety

Painkillers and sedatives can relieve symptoms in the short term, possible solutions to the underlying problem include

  • Using relaxation and stress relieving techniques

  • Giving up habits that aggravate the condition

  • Wearing a bite guard at night to stop you grinding your teeth in your sleep

Some, very few people may be experiencing jaw joint problems due to the way their teeth or dentures meet when they bite/ this can be resolved by adjusting the position or the shape of some teeth, by replacing missing teeth with dentures or implants or by making a new denture if necessary