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Jaw Clicking While Eating? See a Dentist.

added on: April 12, 2021

Almost everyone will experience some kind of jaw pain or jaw clicking at some point in their life. Sometimes these symptoms are serious and can point to a larger issue and sometimes they’re purely temporary and go away on their own. Because jaw clicking is so common, we do tend to normalize jaw issues in general — even when they become painful and borderline debilitating. This can be dangerous. If your jaw is regularly clicking while eating or talking or if your jaw frequently hurts (every day or almost every day), there’s something wrong. Ignoring consistent clicking or pain can result in irreparable damage (and more pain) down the road.

So, what’s the solution? A lot of people assume their GP can help them with their jaw issues but that isn’t the case. Your dentist is actually much more likely to know how to help with TMD, though there are lots of dentists who don’t take TMD cases because they can be difficult. You’ll want to look for a dentist who specializes in neuromuscular dentistry. There is no straightforward way to fix TMD. Every case is different which means dentists have to analyze each case and choose which treatment method they think would work best. Sometimes, treatment is easy and only takes a few months. In other cases, it can take years to become pain-free. And, for those who wait too long to get treatment, there may, unfortunately, be no truly effective treatment options.

Before we dive into what kind of treatment methods we use at Stanley Dentistry, let’s talk a little bit about what TMD/TMJ is and why it happens.

What is TMD?

TMD is short for Temporomandibular disorders. The temporomandibular joints connect the lower jawbone to the skull and make many movements, like eating and speaking, possible. It is one of the most frequently used joints in the human body which is why disorders are so common. 

TMD problems may also include the muscles in the head, face, neck, and shoulders. This can confuse patients and make them uncertain about where the pain is truly coming from. Symptoms of TMD, both mild and severe, can vary wildly but a few of them are:

  • Jaw pain while eating/speaking
  • Headaches
  • Jaw clicking/popping
  • Ear fullness (feeling like you cannot “pop” your ear)
  • Jaw locking
  • Discomfort/pain when holding your head up straight

The origins of TMD are just as varied. Some people are born with temporomandibular joints that are mishappened and destined to cause issues. Others have severe dental misalignment that can create TMD-related issues. Some other causes of TMD include:

Do I have TMD?

If you’ve been experiencing some of the symptoms listed above for a few weeks, it may be time to visit a specialist. Do not wait to schedule an appointment if your jaw is continually clicking or is causing you serious pain. Minor TMD can, and typically does, go away on its own but ignoring chronic symptoms will only make things more difficult for you and your dentist down the road.

If you live in North Carolina or you’re willing to travel to the Tar Heel state, we’d love to help you with your TMD! Give us a call at (919)460-9665 to set up a TMD consultation with our experts.

How can you treat TMD?

Like most things TMD-related, treatment methods vary. At Stanley Dentistry, our specialists look at TMD from a holistic standpoint, taking into account things like dental misalignment and blocked airways that can cause clenching/grinding and thus TMD. A few of our TMJ therapy methods include:

  • Orthodontics (Invisalign or braces) to open up the airway and improve jaw alignment
  • TENSing (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) to help relax the jaw
  • Custom dental sleep guard (to prevent grinding/clenching)
  • Psychological therapy to help manage stress better

In most cases, a combination of these different treatment options will help get a patient to a point where they no longer experience TMD pain. If one method doesn’t work, your dentist will most likely recommend a different one or a few different ones.

Posted In: TMJ Therapy