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by Raleigh Emergency Dentist Dr Thomas E Cooke DDS

There are two joints in the head below the ears call the temperomandibular joints. These joints allow for the lower jaw bone to move and this aids in chewing, speaking, and breathing. The physical stress on these joints over one’s lifetime can be overwhelming and allow for problems to occur. The cartilage, muscles, ligaments and teeth in this area all contribute to the health of these two joints. When a joint disorder occurs in this area, the cause is typically unknown.

• Some known causes of TMJ

Many of the causes of TMJ problems are unknown, but there are a few that are known. One of the main causes of TMJ is a bad bite. Another is orthodontic braces. These two causes have been proven to be the reason why many people have this joint problem. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is another known cause of TMJ problems. It is important to note here that not all grinders have TMJ problems and not all people with TMJ problems are grinders. The fact is that the TM joint does get stressed out from something and grinding may be one of the things that stress some joints to the point where they have a problem. Some think that arthritis may be a cause.

• Factors that may make TMJ problems worse

Some factors can make a TMJ disorder worse. Not paying attention to good posture while sitting at work can significantly alter the TMJ and how it works. It is very important to have good posture. Stress can cause a TMJ problem to get much worse. Lowering the stress in life is always hard to do but there are things that can help. Exercising, working less, resting more are all non-medicine ways of reducing stress that work.

• Common medications you can use for TMJ disorders

There is a high level of inflammation in the TM Joint when someone has TMJ pain so it is important to take some short term anti-inflammatory drug to help alleviate the inflammation. Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants have all been used to help with this problem.

• Common treatments of TMJ disorders

For the most part TMJ disorders will go away on their own, in over 85 % of the cases, with a few conservative treatment steps from your dentist. It is important to consider a mouth guard to wear while you sleep to relax your facial muscles. It is also very common to take some kind of anti-inflammatory medicine to relieve the inflammation in the joint to allow it to heal. It has also been found to be very helpful to place warm moist heat on the sore joint for 15 minutes a day for a few days to help with the muscle stiffness.

• Ways to prevent TMJ disorders

Avoiding TMJ problems is often hard to do when the causes are sometimes unknown. The known causes allow for some suggestions. Eating anything real hard such as hard rock candy or chewing ice should be avoided. Focusing on relaxing should be very high on your list because this disorder mainly comes about during stressful times. Getting into the right posture when sitting at your work desk is also critical.

If you are suffering from TMJ pain, please consult your family dentist

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