Dentist or Doctor For TMJ Pain?
For the most part, many usually end up seeing the doctor for any pain in their body. It's quite a sensible assumption to see your doctor in those instances. Yet, you would be surprised by doctors finding certain conditions more of a dental issue.
In which case, who do you need to see if you're experiencing TMJ pain? A doctor? Or should it be a dentist?
If you've been conflicted, read on to see what medical professional has the right expertise to help you alleviate and treat your TMJ pain.
What is TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) comes from the pain associated with your jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement, which is the area that connects your jawbone to your skull. However, how do people develop TMJ? Well, it isn't easy to pinpoint what exactly causes it.
The reason it develops can vary. It can be a combination of factors that include: genetics, arthritis, or even jaw injury. Another potential cause is people who habitually clench or grind their teeth (bruxism).
Here are a few tell-tale signs of TMJ:
- Pain or tenderness from your jaw
- Aching pain in or surrounding your ear
- Problems chewing (or feels painful)
- Feeling facial soreness
- A clicking or grating sensation when opening or closing mouth or chewing, resulting in pain or limited movement.
Who Can Treat TMJ Pain?
Since TMJ is pain along your jaw, some would assume that seeing a doctor might be best. However, that's not the medical professional you want to turn to treat it.
You would be surprised to know that you should see a dentist for TMJ pain instead. It may seem like dentists are only equipped to take care of your teeth, but many fail to recognize that dentists treat everything associated with your mouth - including your jaw! They have specific knowledge of how the jaw functions and can offer various treatments to help patients with TMJ.
In some severe cases of TMJ, dentists will refer patients over to an orthodontist for further treatment. That is because orthodontists specialize in addressing the diagnosis, prevention, and correction of mal-positioned teeth and jaws, along with other misalignment issues like an overbite.
How is TMJ Treated?
When it comes to TMJ, the pain can sometimes be temporary. Therefore, you can find relief by taking care of it yourself or treating it non-surgically.
Here are a few ways you can treat TMJ on your own:
Learn Relaxation Techniques
Some folks clench or grind their teeth due to stress and anxiety. In which case, you developing TMJ from that is a clear indication that it's the root of your jaw pain. Interestingly enough, these are relaxation techniques specifically targeted toward helping jaw muscles loosen up and become less tense. With consistency, you can see these techniques working by reducing how much jaw pain you have.
Hot & Cold Therapy
Jaw pain comes from your muscles tensing up too much. In which case, how do you treat any tense, sore muscles? Through hot and cold therapy! The goal in mind is not only to find relief but to ultimately help your muscles to relax. When you alternate between cold and hot packs, you can help lessen your pain. By consistently using this therapy four times a day, you can expect jaw pain to fade away eventually.
However, if you're unable to find any relief from your TMJ pain, you should see your dentist for treatment options. If the root of your TMJ has been from habitual clenching and grinding of your teeth, you're most likely going to have your dentist suggest that you use a custom dental appliance. Known as a bite guard or splint, it helps keep your upper teeth from coming into contact with their lower teeth.
If all treatments fail, the surgery is your absolute final option. The type of surgery for TMJ is called arthroscopy, which involves positioning your jaw properly and anything necessary to help eliminate any underlying internal problems with the joint. Since surgery is a big deal, it's best to consult your dentist or orthodontist on what can be expected from the surgery and if it's the best and safest route for treatment.
Jaw pain from TMJ can get in the way of many basic things in your life, like being able to chew or talk because of limited movement. However, knowing who you need to go to (a dentist, just in case you forgot!) saves you time by finding immediate relief and treatment from the right medical expert.