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TMJ Dentistry in Asheville

No More Headaches or Jaw Pain!

John Highsmith, DDS in Clyde, NC

What the heck is a TMJ dentist? Isn’t your TMJ part of your jaw? What could a dentist do for your jaw joint? A lot, actually! Just ask your Asheville TMJ dentist, Dr. John Highsmith. Dr. Highsmith has advanced training in diagnosing, caring for, and even resolving painful and difficult-to-treat TMJ Disorder (TMD).

The Painful Realities of TMD

You were afraid it might happen. You ordered that wonderful, juicy burger at the farm-to-table place you like so much and pop! Your jaw locked open. You managed to get it closed before anyone really noticed– you hope–but now what? You just sit there and look at your house-made chips while everyone around you enjoys their food?

And then, of course, you have tomorrow to look forward to– the aching jaw, probably a headache, ringing ears. You are just so sick of whatever is going on but what can you do? Your doctor suggested painkillers and muscle relaxants but they don’t help. You can’t stop eating or pop pills all day long. Isn’t there something non-invasive you can do? Absolutely. All it takes is a phone call to your Asheville TMJ dentist, Dr. John Highsmith. He can help treat your jaw, stop your pain, and get everything back in balance and harmony so you can eat, laugh, and enjoy life to the fullest again.

What TMD symptoms might I experience?

  • Locked or stiff jaw when you talk, yawn, or eat
  • Jaw pain or soreness, often greater in the morning or late afternoon
  • Jaw pain when you chew, bite or yawn
  • Clicking when opening and closing your mouth
  • Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
  • An earache with no infection
  • Sensitive teeth when no dental problems can be found
  • Headaches, usually in the temple region
Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a jaw-to-skull joint that slides and rotates. Located just in front of your ear, the joint includes the side and base of your skull (temporal bone) and lower jaw (mandible). Strong chewing muscles connect your lower jaw to the skull, allowing you to move your jaw forward, sideways, and open and close your mouth. The joint is aligned properly when your lower jaw and its joint on both sides are synchronized during movement.
A small cartilage disk (called the articular disc) sits in the joint. It moves with the lower jaw, absorbing the terrific pressure of chewing. Like the discs in your spine, the articular disc has no nerves, so it is ideal for absorbing stress. Sometimes this disc moves out of place, which can cause pain of many types. Your Clyde & Asheville TMJ Dentist can help diagnose this.
TMD describes a variety of conditions that affect jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints, and nerves associated with chronic facial or jaw pain. Your symptoms may occur on one or both sides of your face, head or jaw. TMD affects more women than men and is the most common chronic orofacial pain. There can be pain on chewing or constant pain in front of the ear. Headaches are common. Thankfully, Dr. John Highsmith, your Asheville TMJ dentist, can help relieve your discomfort and even solve the issue!
It’s important that you speak with your Asheville TMJ dentist about your particular situation because there is a wide range of causes and complications.
Here are the basics: Normal function for muscles surrounding your TMJ involves chewing, swallowing, speech, and communication. Experts suggest that certain mental or physical tasks cause or aggravate TMD, including strenuous physical tasks or stressful situations. Most discomfort is caused by overusing your chewing muscles, specifically through tooth clenching or grinding (bruxism). Chewing hard foods or chewing gum can also aggravate TMD.
These excessive habits tire your jaw muscles and lead to headaches, neck pain, jaw locking, ear ringing, and a host of other discomforts. Abnormal jaw function can also lead to worn teeth, muscle soreness, sensitive teeth, jaw pain when eating, and temporal (side) headaches.
TMD can also be caused by
  • Trauma, such as a blow to the jaw, facial injury, or whiplash during an auto-accident
  • Unbalanced dental work
  • Tooth loss
  • Illness
  • Certain medications
  • Stress
  • Arthritis
  • Locked or stiff jaw when you talk, yawn, or eat
  • Jaw pain or soreness, often greater in the morning or late afternoon
  • Jaw pain when you chew, bite or yawn
  • Clicking when opening and closing your mouth
  • Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
  • An earache with no infection
  • Sensitive teeth when no dental problems can be found
  • Headaches, usually in the temple region
The majority of cases can be treated by ‘unloading’ (resting) the joint, physical therapy or biofeedback, and practicing stress management and relaxation techniques. It’s important to break bad habits to ease the symptoms. Most TMD treatment is simple, can often be done at home, and doesn’t need surgery. For example, you can control clenching or grinding during the day by sticking your tongue between your teeth. If you still experience pain, you may be grinding or clenching your teeth at night. So see your dentist about a nighttime mouthguard.
Most people experience relief with minor treatment. More severe cases may be treated with physical therapy, ice and hot packs, posture training, and neuromuscular dentistry (read this article for more information on Neuromuscular Dentistry). Eating soft foods and avoiding chewing gum also helps relax your jaw muscles.
Some patients require alterations to their bite to reduce pressure points. Therapy can involve splints, orthodontic work, or restorations on the teeth to change the bite.
The condition is often cyclical and may recur during times of stress, good or bad. As the patient, you should become active in your treatment and understand the causes of your jaw problems. Visit your Asheville TMJ dentist for a diagnosis and therapy regime. Make routine dental appointments, so we can check for TMD on a regular basis.