Your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is a kind of sliding hinge that connects each side of your jawbone to your skull. TMJ disorders can be quite painful, causing tenderness, difficulty eating, and even regular sleep disturbances. At SleepCues, our board-certified sleep medicine expert Dr. Domingo Rodriguez-Cué specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders. To find effective relief and natural solutions for your TMJ disorder, call your nearest SleepCues office in Wilson, Raleigh, or Clayton, North Carolina, or book your appointment online today.
A normal, healthy TMJ helps your jaw move smoothly and without pain. TMJ disorders often result from damage to the cartilage that cushions the joint from the jawbone; they may also be caused by damage to the small, shock-absorbing disc that sits between the joint and the bone and keeps joint movement fluid.
The kind of cartilage, disc, or joint damage that leads to TMJ problems can be caused by:
You’re more likely to develop a TMJ disorder if you had a jaw injury in the past or if you have any type of arthritis, including osteoarthritis. Women are four times more likely than men to develop a TMJ problem.
Although the symptoms of a TMJ disorder depend on its specific cause, most people experience jaw pain or tenderness, which is often accompanied by acute pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints. You may also experience:
Proper diagnosis is a key step toward proper treatment with any TMJ disorder. Dr. Cué will listen to your symptoms, check for abnormal joint erosion and muscle tenderness and examine your teeth for signs of bruxism or involuntary grinding.
If grinding or clenching your teeth is a factor in your jaw disorder, Dr. Cué will work closely with your dentist to develop a custom oral appliance (mouthguard) for you to wear when you sleep.
Traditional TMJ treatment often relies on prescription medications, including pain-relievers, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants, to address pain and discomfort and help you sleep better at night.
While you may initially benefit from an over-the-counter pain reliever, Dr. Cué likes to stress natural, lifestyle modifications — a sort of “less is best” approach — because often, these simple changes can go a long way in addressing TMJ problems.
Using ice packs or moist heat is a good way to alleviate pain and tenderness without medication, while temporarily switching to a liquid or soft diet can help your jaws become more relaxed.
Finding a way to address and reduce chronic stress and anxiety is often the best way to address a mild to moderate TMJ disorder. Because physical therapy can also be beneficial, Dr. Cué may show you how to perform jaw exercises to strengthen and stretch your jaws.