When dealing with disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), you need a comprehensive diagnosis. From there, you can identify what factors are contributing to your TMJ pain and begin treating the root problem. If your jaw is misaligned or you grind your teeth in your sleep, your dentist can provide customized solutions. 

At ChapmanSmiles Orthodontics in Happy Valley, Clackamas, Oregon, orthodontist Dr. Gary Chapman evaluates your bite and helps determine if your jaw popping and TMJ pain can be resolved with a dental appliance.

Understanding TMJ 

Your jaw is held in place by two hinges, known as the temporomandibular joints. These are supported by muscles and connective tissue that allow you to open and close your mouth. If any part of these joints becomes inflamed, it can cause pain and stiffness in the jaw.

TMJ disorders can be varied and complex. Where one person might have mild symptoms caused by bruxism (teeth grinding), another person might experience debilitating pain caused by a misaligned jaw. Other contributing factors to TMJ disorders include arthritis, jaw injury, and genetics.

Symptoms of TMJ disorders include: 

  • ‘Popping’ or ‘clicking’ while chewing or speaking 
  • Tenderness on one or both sides of the jaw 
  • Aching, radiating pain in the face, head, or ear(s) 
  • Feeling like the jaw’s become locked 

Occasional jaw stiffness and popping are normal, especially if you slept on that side, propped your chin in your hand, or ate a lot of chewy foods. However, if your TMJ symptoms are beginning to affect your daily life, it might be time to consult a specialist. 

Finding relief for a popping jaw

The diagnostic process for TMJ disorders has to cover a lot of ground. First, your doctor performs a physical examination to listen to your jaw, observe the range of motion, and locate tender areas. 

From there, you might need additional tests to further determine what’s causing your TMJ pain. Dental X-rays can be used to examine the teeth and jaw, while CT scans and MRIs provide more detailed images of the bones, cartilage, and soft tissue. 

If your results indicate orthodontic issues, Dr. Chapman might recommend braces or clear aligners to shift things into place. The stress of chewing and speaking with a misaligned jaw can lead to chronic TMJ problems, including recurring symptom flareups. 

Custom mouthguards are a possibility for those who grind their teeth in their sleep. Many people with bruxism avoid mouthguards because they’re uncomfortable, but the team at Chapman Smiles can make sure yours is well-fitted. 

To learn more and to find relief from TMJ pain, schedule a consultation with Dr. Chapman by calling 503-336-1883, or request an appointment online.

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