If you usually wake up with an ache or pain behind your eyes, or have pain in the back of your neck and shoulders, before you think of seeing your doctor, perhaps you should think of seeing your dentist.
Your morning pain could be a result of problems in your mouth. Such pain is a common symptom of a condition known as “temporomandibular joint disorder,” also referred to as “TMJ” or “TMD”. TMD is caused by improper alignment of the teeth and/or the jaw. Such misalignment places stress on the jaw, on the nerves, and on the muscles, and can result in morning headaches, migraines, neck and shoulder pain, or sore and tense facial muscles. If you display any of these symptoms, things won’t get better without professional help. (But, if you are reading this and thinking this does not describe any pain that you have, and you think you’re in the clear with TMJ or TMD, we have some news for you: Not everyone with TMJ disorder has symptoms.) Whether you’re symptomatic or not, if you have TMJ or TMD, you are vulnerable to problems that range from broken teeth or fillings, to loose teeth, or even toothache.
Well, you can begin by trying to rest your jaw. Many people find that simply resting the jaw helps to ease the pain. How do you do this? You can try a few things on your own:
- Avoid any hard foods, hard candies, and chewing gum.
- Make sure your teeth are never clenched except when you are chewing your food.
- Ask your dentist to show you some jaw exercises to relieve muscle stress.
For most people however, the most effective treatment for TMJ or TMD is a custom dental splint that fits over the teeth. The splint can be worn during the night—or even during the day, if necessary—and can reduce the damage done by repeated clenching of the jaw and grinding of the teeth.
If such conservative methods don’t work, there are still other options. The temporomandibular joints can be flushed out, or an injection of cortisone can help relieve inflammation and pain. In a worst-case scenario, you might even need surgery.
Don’t suffer unnecessarily from TMJ or TMD. Come in for a visit, and we’ll help you find the right solution for you!