Each November, your McAllen family dentists at WhiteWing Dental recognize TMJ Awareness Month.
This year is especially important, as dental offices around the United States have seen an increase in tooth fractures, headaches, jaw muscle pain and more, due to the stress and worry many have been feeling during the coronavirus pandemic.
About the TMJ
TMJ, or the temporomandibular joint, is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. Functioning like a hinge, it makes it possible to open and close your mouth. (If you gently place your index fingers on each side of your face, just in front of your ears, you can feel this “hinge” as you open and close your mouth.)
This ball and socket joint, located at each side of your head, helps support jaw muscles and ligaments that allow you to chew, speak, and swallow. Along with preventative services, WhiteWing Dental offers restorative services and our McAllen family dentists work hard to discover any issues you may have, such as TMJ disorder.
The Basics of TMJ Disorder
TMJ disorder can be caused by arthritis, injury, overuse, stress, or any habit that puts stress on the jaw. When this occurs, TMJ joints become inflamed, eroded, or misaligned. Unfortunately, for sufferers, TMJ disorder can be a very painful and frustrating experience. Clenching and grinding your teeth can also lead to an increased risk of developing TMJ disorder.
Pandemic-related anxiety has affected Americans greatly, and the stress that leads to this clenching and grinding of teeth has, in turn, led to greater cases of TMJ disorder. According to The National Institute of Health, 10 million Americans are affected by this disorder. Patients that leave TMJ disorder untreated or undiagnosed are left at risk for permanent damage.
Poor posture during work hours can also turn into teeth grinding at night. As more people are suddenly struggling with restlessness and insomnia at night, tension goes straight to their teeth, among other parts of the body.
What Can Be Done About My TMJ Disorder?
The first step in battling TMJ Disorder is awareness. Keep an eye out for the following warning signs:
- Pain or tenderness in your jaw
- Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
- Pain around the ears
- Tension headaches or migraines
- Neck/shoulder pain
- Sore jaw joints
- Difficulty chewing
- Joint sounds such as clicking or popping
- Limitations in jaw movement
If you notice your teeth are touching while reading this, you may have an issue with clenching. Teeth shouldn’t touch throughout the day unless you are actively chewing and eating food. There should be a small space between your teeth when your lips are closed.
If you’ve noticed these signs, contact your local dentist and schedule an appointment. WhiteWing Dental has experienced family dentists that can help reduce or eliminate these symptoms with a few simple solutions.
A TMJ splint, or oral appliance, can decrease jaw tension while you sleep and protect your teeth from grinding. Your jaw will be positioned in a way that brings relief and comfort. They may also recommend exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles, as well as medications, night guards or a bite plate.
Surgical intervention is rare, but can be required depending on the severity of the case.
There are also several ways you can help relieve TMJ pain at home:
- Avoid overworking your jaw by sticking to softer foods and eliminating gum from your diet.
- Reduce/avoid repetitive functions, such as gum chewing, biting nails or ice-chip chewing.
- Exercise on a daily basis.
- Gently massage the muscles around your jaw to relieve tension.
- Implement stress-reducing techniques.
- Take breaks if you spend a lot of time on the computer or sitting in the same position.
- Stretch, walk around and take breaks from screen time.
2020 Might Have Affected Your Teeth
Because teeth are naturally brittle, they can only take so much trauma before they break. Chronic stress has risen since February, and the teeth clenching and grinding that result from this stress can be prevented with a few exercises that our dentists can share with you.
For those working from home, or at a desk all day, it’s important to remember that your posture during the day can affect how you sleep at night. It is recommended to try standing, whenever possible, and to incorporate more movement throughout your day. Any opportunity to take steps or stretch, no matter how small, is key.
It’s also important not to underestimate the influence of the mind on the body. Breathing breaks are a great way to relax and not think about work or other stressors. Take some time before bed to clear your mind and relax your body.
WhiteWing Dental Has Got You Covered This TMJ Awareness Month
As we recognize TMJ Awareness Month, allow our McAllen family dentists at WhiteWing Dental to help you relieve the pain and frustration that results from TMJ Disorder. We offer the latest technology for everything from general dentistry services to cosmetic services, sedation dentistry and even dental services for special needs patients.
More importantly, we care for our patients and strive to improve their quality of life by improving their dental health. Contact us at (956) 686-5577 to schedule your next visit with one of our McAllen or La Feria family dentists now. We guarantee that you’ll leave with a smile!