Dispelling Common TMJ Myths
You need your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) to open and close your mouth when you’re eating or speaking. Unfortunately, around 12% of the U.S. population has problems with their TMJ and only about 50% to 60% of them seek treatment. Due to countless undiagnosed cases, these numbers may be low. Those who fall for the lingering misconceptions surrounding issues with their TMJ in Denver end up not paying much attention to their jaw.
Unless they get their facts straight, these myths will stop them from getting relief. Knowing the truth behind them is crucial to ensure proper treatment.
Don’t Fall for These TMJ Misconceptions!
MYTH #1: “TMJ and TMD are the same thing.”
Although many people use the terms TMJ and TMD interchangeably, they aren’t the same thing. Your TMJs are the two small and delicate joints in front of each ear. These joints act as a sliding and rotating hinge that connects your lower jaw (mandible) to the side and base of your skull.
Your TMJs are a part of a complex system of muscles, ligaments, jawbone, temporal bone, and disk that allow your lower jaw to move side to side, up and down, and forward and back. Smooth muscle actions take place when your TMJs and mandible are properly aligned. These structures allow you to speak, chew, yawn, and swallow without issues.
On the other hand, any dysfunction of your TMJs will lead to TMD or a temporomandibular joint disorder. When you struggle with TMD, the muscles and ligaments around your TMJs become irritated or inflamed. Whether acute or chronic, TMD can cause pain ranging from mild to severe.
MYTH #2: “TMD only affects your jaw.”
If you think that disorders related to your TMJ don’t affect other parts of your body, think again. Besides affecting your jaw, TMD can also have a significant impact on your ears and head.
MYTH #3: “Only a few people have TMD.”
In reality, the condition is common. Statistics show that around 35 million Americans are dealing with TMD symptoms.
Moreover, about one in ten individuals across the globe share similar experiences. Although TMD can affect anyone regardless of age or gender, this condition is most common among women between the ages of 20 and 40.
MYTH #4: “You won’t experience TMD unless you suffer an injury or accident to the head or jaw.”
While most people develop disorders of the temporomandibular joints due to past injuries or accidents to the head or jaw, an improper bite caused by dental misalignment can also cause TMD. However, orthodontic treatment can fix misaligned teeth.
Bruxism, or the involuntary clenching and grinding of teeth during sleep, can also lead to a misaligned bite that may prevent your upper and lower teeth from closing together correctly. Unless you use an oral appliance that absorbs the friction and pressure of bruxism, your muscles will eventually reposition your TMJs out of their sockets.
MYTH #5: “TMD won’t affect your quality of life.”
Since TMD isn’t a life-threatening condition, this disorder can seriously wreak havoc on your quality of life unless you promptly address it. Some of the hallmark signs of TMD include the following:
- Pain or tenderness around the area of your jaw
- Pain in one or both TMJs
- Pain in and around your ear
- Pain while chewing or even in the absence of any jaw activity
- Chronic headaches
- Facial pain
- Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
- Popping, clicking, or grating sounds when you open or close your mouth
- Vertigo and balance issues
MYTH #6: “If your jaw doesn’t make popping sounds, you don’t have TMD.”
It’s important to note that TMD symptoms vary from person to person. While some people experience jaw popping, others only experience pain that radiates throughout their mouth and head or stiffness of the jaw joint. In other words, you may still have TMD even if your jaw isn’t making weird popping sounds each time you open your mouth.
MYTH #7: “Surgery is the only way to treat TMD.”
Although your dentist can use invasive procedures to treat TMJ disorders, they often recommend them as a last resort when other types of treatment fail to resolve the symptoms. They may instruct you to use an oral appliance such as a night guard to move your jaw into a more comfortable position. They may also recommend orthodontic treatment to improve the alignment of your teeth, fix your bite, and restore your oral functions.
MYTH #8: “TMJ disorders are incurable.”
Contrary to what some people may believe, TMJ disorders aren’t incurable. However, the cause of the TMD determines the type of treatment you’ll need. For this reason, it’s best to work with your dentist to find the appropriate treatment for your specific case of TMD.
For example, if the root of your TMJ disorder has something to do with your misaligned bite, your dentist may recommend braces to shift your teeth to their correct positions. Your upper and lower jaw won’t line up correctly unless you receive orthodontic treatment.
However, if you’re dealing with severe damage to your TMJ due to an accident or trauma to the head, your dental care provider may recommend surgery to realign your upper and lower jaws. Likewise, if your TMD stems from bruxism, your dentist will recommend wearing a night guard to protect your teeth and TMJs.
MYTH #9: “Pain related to TMD will go away if you rest your jaw enough.”
Resting your jaw can help alleviate the symptoms related to TMD. However, since TMD is a disorder, your TMJ will find it challenging to get that rest. If left unaddressed, TMD symptoms can worsen and spread over time.
MYTH #10: “TMJ disorders are conditions that aren’t scientifically neglected and poorly understood.”
Did you know that TMD research is in its infancy? For this reason, countless health care professionals end up receiving little evidence-based training or education.
Do You Have Issues with Your TMJ in Denver?
Don’t let these misconceptions stop you from getting the help you desperately need. A qualified dental professional can offer you solutions that will put an end to your discomfort.
The caring and capable team of dental experts at Makowski Dental has been providing high-quality dental services to countless patients across Colorado. Regardless of what type of dental problem you may be struggling with, we’re here to help you resolve it quickly and efficiently. Feel free to reach out to us today to set up an appointment.