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Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome occurs when the ligaments, muscles, and joints of the jaw move out of alignment. Symptoms can include pain when opening and closing your mouth, pain in the jaw area that spreads to your face or neck and shoulders, headaches, earaches or ringing in the ears, inability to open your mouth completely, and "clicking" or "popping" sounds when you chew. Because these symptoms are common to other disorders, the problem is often misdiagnosed. TMJ has a number of possible causes:

  • Bruxism (grinding your teeth in your sleep)
  • Sleeping in a position that misaligns the jaw or creates tension in the neck
  • Stress-induced muscle tension in the shoulder and neck
  • Incorrect or uneven bite

Treatment... TMJ may or may not require professional treatment. Many dentists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ. They may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine, tranquilizers, or muscle relaxants for a short period. They may also recommend braces to correct your bite or a bite plate to wear while sleeping. In extreme cases, surgery may be required.

Self-Care Tips...

If you have TMJ, you may be able to minimize symptoms in the following ways:

  • Don't chew gum.
  • Try not to open your jaw wide. This includes yawning and taking big bites out of thick sandwiches or hard-to-eat foods.
  • Massage the jaw areas near the temples several times a day, first with your mouth open, and then with your mouth closed.
  • To help reduce muscle spasms that can cause pain, apply moist heat to the jaw area. Use a washcloth soaked in warm water.
  • If stress is a factor, consider learning ways to control it, such as relaxation training.

Visit the Health Resource Center at Forks Community Hospital

Stop in the Forks Community Hospital to see the above information on display and also pick up your copies of helpful information to support you in meeting your new goals. May we all have a healthier year filled with many moments that are dear and will be remembered forever!

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