TMJ Disorder: Symptoms & Treatment

San Francisco Dentist Serving San Rafael, Oakland, Berkeley &
Nearby Bay Area, California

San Francisco TMJ Pain Relief Treatment

TMJ headache patient in San FranciscoIt is estimated that nearly 10 million people in the United States suffer from jaw misalignment. A misaligned bite can create problems that extend beyond the way you chew or speak. You may experience TMJ pain in your neck and shoulders or suffer from the consequences of poor posture related to the problems in your jaw. Our dentists can effectively treat and correct jaw misalignment or malocclusion to help rid you of the painful symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ/TMD).

If you suffer from the TMJ pain, please call the DENTAL STUDIO today at 415-392-5025 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced dentists. Our state-of-the-art facility in San Francisco welcomes patients from San Rafael, Oakland, Berkeley and the entire Bay Area.

On this page, you will find information discussing:

What Is TMJ/TMD?

TMJ and TMD are essentially interchangeable acronyms for temporomandibular joint disorder. Your temporomandibular joints are the sophisticated joints that attach your lower jaw to the rest of your skull. Unlike any other joints in your body, the temporomandibular joints allow for a broad range of motion.

In order to facilitate chewing and speaking, your jaw must move freely in a variety of angles. Your jaw must also be very strong. Not only do your temporomandibular joints harbor great strength, they also work with some of the other strongest muscles in your body, like your neck and head muscles. These versatile muscles also contain two of your body’s largest nerve clusters. When there is even slight malocclusion, the resulting symptoms can negatively impact your comfort, mobility and ability to perform crucial tasks. Tense, stressed muscles surrounding the TMJs are another potential source of your discomfort. In those cases, trigger point injections may alleviate some of the discomfort by relaxing the muscles.

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What Causes TMJ?

There are a number of potential contributing factors to a TMD diagnosis. As part of your TMJ treatment, the dentist will comprehensively examine your jaw to determine the function and shape of your facial muscles and joints.

The most common causes of TMJ disorder include:

  • Chronic teeth grinding, or bruxism
  • Missing teeth, or malocclusion
  • Arthritis or some other degenerative disease
  • Trauma

Your TMJ treatment consultation is also an opportunity for our dentists to understand your TMJ symptoms and develop a comprehensive view of your neuromuscular health. 

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Common TMJ Symptoms

TMJ symptoms can manifest in such varied areas and ways that many sufferers of the condition don’t even realize the source of their discomfort. That’s why it is so important to keep regularly scheduled appointment with your dentist.

During your routine examination with one of our dentists, they will evaluate the condition of your oral structure and ask questions to determine the full state of your oral health. By identifying the symptoms of TMJ early, they are able to address the issue before it becomes a larger, more expensive problem.

Some TMJ symptoms include:

  • Migraine-like headaches
  • Popping and clicking in the jaw
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Lockjaw
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Tooth loss
  • Vision problems
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Head, neck and shoulder pain

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TMJ Headache Pain

TMJ headaches are the most commonly reported symptoms of the disorder. Almost 80 percent of TMJ sufferers experience frequent headaches. TMJ may be a contributing factor to your headaches if:

  • Your headaches do not respond to prescription or over-the-counter headache medication
  • Your headaches are not alleviated by typical headache remedies
  • Your headaches tend to recur

When you meet with our TMJ specialists, they will conduct a thorough evaluation of your bite and help you determine if TMD plays a role in your chronic migraine-like headaches.

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TMJ Ear Pain

Ear pain, as well as tinnitus (ringing in the ears) can result from nerve irritation caused by temporomandibular disorder. TMJ ear pain can present itself as a dull, ongoing irritation or a sharp, searing pain. It can also cause minor muscles spasms in your face. If related to TMJ, you are most likely to experience these symptoms when you:

  • Talk
  • Chew
  • Yawn
  • Swallow

If you experience TMJ ear pain while performing any of the above tasks, you should seek the attention of our TMD specialists right away for a complete evaluation.

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TMJ Neck Pain

Since muscles work like a team, when one muscle works, other muscles are usually bound to join in. The muscles that control eating, chewing, speaking and head posture are intricately linked to the bones in the neck.

By working to correct your bite and relieving strain on the jaw, our dentists in turn addresses pain that results elsewhere in the body through the complex relationship of the bones, joints, muscles and nerves.

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TMJ Pain Relief

Unfortunately, people often turn to medications that can be both physically dangerous and addictive to treat TMJ symptoms. While these drugs may dull the pain, they fail to address the actual problem. The best way to treat your TMJ syndrome is with the supervision of an experienced TMJ specialist. As an active member of the Spear Faculty Club at the renowned Spear Education Institute, Dr. Cornehl has received extensive training in both cosmetic and rehabilitative dentistry. 

While a complete smile makeover is a comprehensive TMJ treatment option in addition to a variety of other smile issues, our dentists can also treat your TMD with a more conservative approach. They may choose to fit you with a custom orthotic appliance designed to correct jaw misalignment and relieve your nagging TMJ pain & symptoms. The orthotic devices helps to relax your jaw muscles and reduce pressure on your nerves, joints and other oral structures.

Since there are several factors that contribute to TMJ syndrome, there may be several approaches to your San Francisco TMJ treatment. Other home-treatment strategies may include:

  • Dietary restrictions: Avoid constant gum chewing and other foods that place stress on your jaw. Chew food evenly on both sides of your mouth.
  • Jaw stretches: Gently stretching your jaw and joint muscles can help ease TMJ-related discomfort.
  • Posture correction: Keep your head up, back straight and shoulders squared. Avoid sitting with your chin rested in your hand.
  • Avoid grinding your teeth: Wearing a nightguard can help prevent teeth grinding during slumber. Be aware of times you may grind your teeth during the day due to stress or other factors.
  • Relax your face: Remember the rule, “lips together, teeth apart.”

San Francisco TMJ Pain Relief

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TMJ Exercises

It may not be helpful to perform TMJ exercises at the moment you are experiencing TMJ pain and discomfort. However, once the pain has subsided, there are certain strengthening exercises you can do to help prevent some of the pain from returning. These activities include closing and opening your mouth while applying gentle resistance on your chin.

  • Resisted closing exercise: Using one hand, place your thumb beneath your chin and your index finger on the crest between your lower lip and chin. Push slightly while closing your mouth.
  • Resisted opening exercise: Place your thumb beneath your chin and gently press against your thumb by opening your mouth. Maintain slight pressure against your chin for a few moments before closing your mouth again.

In addition to performing strengthening exercises, stretching exercises can also help with TMJ pain relief. For these movements, like strengthening exercises, try to move your jaw as much as possible without creating discomfort.

  • Begin with your jaw completely relaxed and your mouth closed. Keep your teeth slightly parted and gradually open your mouth as wide as you can while looking upward. Stay this way for a few moments then gently close your mouth.
  • Keeping your mouth closed and teeth slightly apart, move your jaw to the right while looking to the left with your eyes. Hold this position for a few moments then return both your eyes and jaw back to center position. Repeat the motion, but move your jaw to the left while looking to the right.

Jaw relaxation exercises may also be able to help with TMJ pain. To help yourself relax, inhale for about five to ten seconds then slowly exhale. Stress can contribute to TMJ pain and any steps you can take to reduce your stress may help ease TMD-related discomfort. 

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Schedule Your San Francisco TMJ Treatment Evaluation Today

Effectively treating TMJ dysfunction depends on the cause of the disorder and the circumstances surrounding it. While exercises and over-the-counter medicines may provide temporary relief, it is necessary to seek the help of a highly-trained and experienced TMJ dentist.

Our dentists trained extensively in the field of clinical and restorative dentistry and understands the symptoms, causes and appropriate treatments of TMJ. They can help correct your bite and alleviate your TMJ symptoms in San Francisco & the surrounding Bay Area.

To schedule your San Francisco TMJ treatment evaluation, please contact the DENTAL STUDIO today by completing the form on this page or calling 415-392-5025. We help TMJ disorder sufferers throughout the Bay Area, including San Rafael, Oakland and Berkeley.