Your jaw is far more delicate and complex than you might think. Our jaws, particularly our temporomandibular joints, are responsible for chewing, speaking, and simply opening and closing our mouths. Complications with the temporomandibular joint are called TMJ disorders. Kids with TMJ may have pain, clicking/popping noises, and even locked jaws.
Like most dental problems, people of all ages can develop TMJ disorders. For that reason, it’s important that parents know what to look for when identifying TMJ issues in their children.
What are TMJ Disorders?
As mentioned above, a TMJ disorder is an issue with the temporomandibular joint. This joint allows the jaw to glide open and shut. When there is a TMJ disorder, it can cause the jaw to click, pop, and lock open or shut. TMJ disorders can also lead to pain in the jaw, head, and neck, as well as tinnitus.
Kids with TMJ disorders might complain of jaw pain, problems eating, and earaches. Other symptoms might include:
- Difficulty chewing, yawning, or opening and closing the mouth
- Headaches or earaches
- Pain and swelling of the jaw
- Jaw might become locked when opened wide or clenched shut
Causes of TMJ
Among children, teenagers, particularly teenage girls, are more likely to develop TMJ disorders. However, kids with TMJ can be of any age, gender, or background.
The exact cause of TMJ disorders cannot be determined, but certain factors can cause or exacerbate them, including:
- Teeth grinding
- Blows to the head/head trauma
- Jaw misalignment
Treatment For Kids with TMJ
Depending on the severity of the issue, different treatments might be recommended. For example, kids with TMJ relating to their bite might benefit from braces or other dental procedures. With help, they might grow out of their TMJ disorder as they get older.
Children with teeth grinding issues might be given a biteplate, or medication to relax the muscles as they sleep. Stressed or anxious children might stop clenching their jaw/grinding their teeth when given medication or counseling. Teeth grinding can cause many other issues besides TMJ, so many dentists try to tackle this problem early on.
In some cases, locked jaws might require manipulation to unlock. Your child might be sedated for this procedure to avoid stress. Severe instances of TMJ might require surgery or steroid shots, but these cases are rare.
TMJ disorder can be alleviated by avoiding chewy foods like gum and taffy and giving the jaw a rest after flare-ups. Soft foods and liquids are best during times like these, and heat/ice packs can help with pain and swelling.
If your child has a diagnosed case of TMJ, or you suspect they might be suffering from a TMJ disorder, our team of experts at Danville Family Dentistry can help. To get in contact with us, call 317-745-4400.
Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.