People who suffer from headaches, fatigue, and sore or clicking jaw muscles often have temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder). These disc-shaped joints are located slightly in front of your ears and act as a hinge for your upper and lower jaws.
Sometimes these joints become overly fatigued, thus causing TMJ symptoms. People with severe TMJ disorder can also develop carpal tunnel syndrome, sleep apnea, and back pain.
While avoiding certain foods - like gum and beef jerky - and avoiding jaw-clenching stress can certainly help, TMJ disorder can be a complex issue. If you aren't finding relief from your TMJ disorder, you might want to consider one of these culprits.
A malocclusion is a catch-all term for irregular alignments of the upper and lower teeth, like over- and under-bites.
When teeth do not come together as they should, this places unnecessary stress on certain areas in your mouth. For example, if you have an overbite, your front teeth may not touch, so you would have lots of pressure on your back molars.
Extraction can correct some malocclusions, like overcrowding, which may relieve your TMJ symptoms.
Orthodontic work can also correct malocclusions and TMJ symptoms. The downside is that you may temporarily exacerbate your symptoms while undergoing treatment. To avoid this problem, it's best to share your concerns with a dentist.
Your dentist may recommend removable options, like Invisalign, since these trays protect your teeth from bruxism and won't exacerbate your symptoms.
Plastic retainers - which are similar in appearance to Invisalign trays - can then be used for your orthodontic aftercare, since they can prevent you from grinding your teeth at night.
If your bite cannot be corrected solely by orthodontic means, it may be worth it to look into orthognathic surgery. Structural issues with the joints can get worse over time, so the investment may be worth it.
Allergies can cause people to develop a TMJ disorder. Continuous sneezing can cause the joint to weaken or even dislocate.
Sinus congestion may cause swelling and mouth breathing. This swelling can extend to your ear canal, which then places pressure on the temporomandibular joint. If you are unable to breathe through your nose, your jaw muscles can become sore from an open mouth.
It's best to visit an allergy specialist to get a grasp on your situation. You may be allergic to more substances than you think. A specialist can give you a comprehensive view of many allergens with both a scratch test and a blood test.
You already know that stress can affect TMJ symptoms, but do you know why? When a person experiences prolonged stress, he or she may have heightened levels of cortisol. In a healthy person, this hormone regulates the immune response and metabolism.
In a person who is chronically stressed, cortisol can cause an unhealthy inflammatory response. Increased inflammation has been linked to a variety of ailments, including TMJ disorder. If your cortisol levels are high, you may feel joint pain and reduced range of motion with your jaw.
You may want to see a therapist to help you work through stressful issues. You should also ask your dentist about a night guard. People who are chronically stressed tend to grind their teeth at night. A mouth guard can protect your enamel from microfractures and alleviate your symptoms.
Besides cortisol, imbalances in estrogen and testosterone have also been linked to TMJ symptoms. Women are especially susceptible to this issue since hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, and pregnancy all alter hormone levels. Visit your doctor to get your hormones tested. Exercising and eating the proper foods could balance your hormones naturally and relieve your TMJ disorder.
Contact Dr. Devins for more information on resolving your TMJ symptoms.