Earaches, neck pain, and a jaw that pops, clicks, or gets stuck are all signs of a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. At Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. in Orinda, California, Dr. Ellis specializes in diagnosing and treating TMJ problems. In this blog, she explains what TMJ disorders are along with some of the treatment options. 

What is a TMJ disorder?

The temporomandibular joint is one of the most complicated joints in your body. It connects your lower jaw — the mandible — to the side of your head. This joint functions as a hinge that allows you to open and close your mouth, and it also allows you to make a sideways sliding motion.

If you have a problem with your temporomandibular joint, you have a TMJ disorder. While the exact cause of a TMJ disorder may not always be clear, the condition often occurs as a result of:

  • Genetics 
  • Head trauma or injury
  • Daily stress
  • Arthritis 
  • Teeth grinding

The onset of TMJ symptoms can also be attributed to neck injuries, such as whiplash. Furthermore, a poor posture can also be a contributing factor. Left untreated, a TMJ disorder can become a source of chronic pain and lead to sleep disorders and even depression.

Common symptoms of a TMJ disorder

For most people dealing with a TMJ disorder, the symptoms are a combination of any of the following:

  • Popping or clicking when chewing
  • Locked or stuck jaw
  • Facial pain and tenderness
  • Earaches
  • Neck pain
  • Headaches 
  • Toothaches

You might even experience ringing in your ears or pain that radiates into your shoulders. 

Treating TMJ problems

If you have a TMJ disorder, making lifestyle changes — such as managing your stress — avoiding hard-to-chew foods, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may help. Eating soft foods, applying ice, and doing appropriate jaw stretches may also help take pressure off of tense jaw and neck muscles.

While the measures above may be able to help, expert dental care is usually needed to treat TMJ disorders. Dr. Ellis is an expert at diagnosing and treating this condition. She’ll assess your symptoms and examine your teeth and jaw and then recommend effective ways to treat your condition. 

For example, if you grind your teeth at night, she may fit you with a custom night guard to prevent you from grinding your teeth while you sleep. If bite issues are causing your disorder, Dr. Ellis may suggest enamel shaping or replacing missing teeth with dental implants or bridges. These procedures can help align and balance your chewing surfaces and thus help take pressure off of your jaw and facial muscles. 

You don’t have to live with a popping, painful jaw. Take the first step toward relief by booking an appointment online or over the phone with Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. today.