Reviewed by Dr. Alan Baughman, DMD, MBA
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, commonly known as TMJ, is not just an adult issue. It can also affect children and cause jaw pain, restricting their ability to eat, speak, and enjoy everyday activities.
This blog will shed light on TMJ in kids – its causes, signs to look out for, and available treatment options.
Table of Contents
- What is TMJ?
- Causes of TMJ Disorders in Kids
- Symptoms of TMJ in Children
- How Are TMJ Disorders Diagnosed in Kids?
- Treatment Options for TMJ in Kids
- How to Prevent TMJ Disorders in Children
- Kids Dentist in Greeley, CO
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the connection point between the lower jaw (mandible) and the skull’s temporal bone. This joint allows the mouth to open and close, move side-to-side, and chew.
A TMJ disorder occurs when there is a problem with this joint and the surrounding muscles, causing pain and discomfort.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) results from a dysfunction in the joint connecting the jaw to the skull, causing pain and discomfort. Effective treatment options for TMJ include lifestyle modifications, pain management, dental treatments, physical therapy, and behavioral therapy. Regular dental check-ups are vital for early detection and prevention of such disorders.
Causes of TMJ Disorders in Kids
TMJ disorders in kids can arise from several factors, including:
- Injury or trauma to the jaw or face
- Abnormal bite alignment
- Teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism)
- Stress or anxiety
- Growing pains during childhood development
Symptoms of TMJ in Children
If your child has a TMJ disorder, they may experience one or more of the following symptoms.
Clicking or Popping
One of the most common symptoms of TMJ is a clicking or popping sound with pain or discomfort when opening and closing the mouth. Misalignment or dysfunction in the joint may cause these sounds.
Pain in the Jaw
TMJ disorders may cause pain in the jaw, face, or even the neck and shoulders. This pain can range from mild discomfort to severe and can be constant or intermittent.
Restricted Jaw Movement
Difficulty opening or closing the mouth fully could be a sign of a TMJ disorder. This restriction in jaw movement can make eating and speaking difficult.
Tired Facial Muscles
Constant strain on the jaw can lead to fatigue and tiredness in the facial muscles after chewing or talking for an extended period.
When the temporomandibular joints are strained they can cause the joint muscles to overstretch and lead to jaw muscle spasms. When these spasms occur in the jaw area, they may feel a pulsing sensation in their jaw or notice tension in the muscles surrounding the TMJ, leading to a feeling of physical hardness in that area. These spasms can be painful and interfere with everyday activities.
Earaches or Headaches
Since the TMJ is located close to the ear, a disorder in this joint can cause ear pain, ringing in the ears, or even headaches. It can also cause tension headaches or migraines. The pain may radiate from the jaw to other areas of the head.
How Are TMJ Disorders Diagnosed in Kids?
Your dentist will perform a physical examination and ask about your child’s symptoms. They may also use imaging tests like CBCT/3D (dental cone beam computed tomography) or X-ray to assess the jaw joint and surrounding structures.
Treatment Options for TMJ in Kids
Several treatment options are available for addressing TMJ disorders in children.
- Lifestyle modifications: Simple lifestyle changes can help alleviate TMJ pain in kids, such as avoiding hard or chewy foods and practicing relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
- Pain management: Over-the-counter pain relievers can help ease discomfort and inflammation in the jaw joint. However, consult a doctor before giving your child any medication.
- Dental treatment: Orthodontic treatment can fix irregularities in your child’s teeth or jaw that may contribute to their TMJ disorder. This may involve braces, aligners, or other dental devices to align the teeth and jaw, correct the bite, and reduce strain on the TMJ.
Mouth guards and night guards are dental appliances your child can wear while sleeping. They reduce pressure on the jaw joint and prevent teeth grinding, a common cause of TMJ disorders. These custom-made devices provide comfortable and effective relief and often improve TMJ symptoms significantly.
- Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach your child exercises to strengthen and stretch the jaw muscles. This will improve mobility and reduce pain in the TMJ. They may also use massage or ultrasound therapy techniques to relieve tension and improve muscle function.
- Behavioral therapy: In some cases, TMJ disorders in children can be linked to stress or anxiety. Behavioral therapy can help your child manage these underlying factors and reduce their impact on the jaw joint.
How to Prevent TMJ Disorders in Children
Some children are more prone to have a TMJ disorder because of genetics or developmental factors. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of developing a TMJ disorder.
- Encourage proper posture and body mechanics while sitting, standing, and performing activities.
- Teach your child relaxation techniques to manage stress better.
- Limit hard or chewy foods in their diet.
- Encourage good oral hygiene.
- Schedule regular dental checkups to monitor your child’s bite and jaw development.
Kids Dentist in Greeley, CO
TMJ disorders in children may cause discomfort, restrict jaw movement, and interfere with everyday activities.
The good news is that these disorders can be effectively managed. At Clearwater Dentistry, we are dedicated to ensuring your child’s overall oral health. Our experienced dentist, Dr. Baughman, can guide your child through a personalized treatment plan for their TMJ disorder to alleviate pain and improve their quality of life.
Don’t let TMJ issues hold your child back. Schedule an appointment with our experienced family dentist in Greeley, CO. Call (970) 515-3550 or complete the online booking form.
If you are searching for a ‘kids dentist near me,’ contact Clearwater Dentistry.