Rory Williams fell off his bike and hit his jaw in the process. Since then, he’s been experiencing a clicking sound when he opens his mouth to eat, yawn, talk or do other basic daily functions that involve the jaw. But Rory is not alone. As many as 10 million Americans suffer from temporomandibular joint disorder, a condition that arises when there are issues with the delicate and complex temporomandibular joints located on each side of the face just in front of the ears. This joint connects the jaw to the skull.
Dr. James Block is a prominent Fremont, California, dentist. Block has helped countless patients find relief from similar conditions to Rory’s.
“TMJ disorders are caused by inflammation or injury to the TMJ,” Block said. “This joint connects the skull to the jaw and is located close to the ear. When the joint becomes injured or inflamed, certain issues may develop, and symptoms may include difficulty with chewing or eating, talking or moving the jaw.”
Block said that while the main cause of TMJ disorder is relatively unknown, certain issues such as dental misalignment as well as teeth grinding can put anyone at risk of the condition.
“And there are also no specific tests to diagnose TMJD as well,” he said. “Usually what we do is look at your symptoms via a physical examination.”
Block said TMJ disorders are temporary and often go away on their own. In most cases, self-care may help. This can include using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, putting ice packs on the affected area, eating soft foods, and massaging jaw and neck muscles.
But what if your TMJ does not respond to these tactics? Block recommends visiting a dentist for medical treatment.
“Depending on the condition, your dentist can recommend dental splints, physical therapy, mouth guards, surgery or Botox injections, among others,” he said.
Block specializes in general and cosmetic dentistry and can help patients in need of TMJD treatment, sleep apnea treatment, dental implants and teeth whitening, among other procedures.