Temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly known as TMJ, is a condition that affects the jaw joint and can cause pain, discomfort, and difficulty moving the jaw. While it is often associated with adults, TMJ can also impact children. In this blog post, we will explore how TMJ can impact children and what parents can do to help their child manage this condition.
What is TMJ?
Before we dive into how TMJ can impact children, let’s first discuss what it is. The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull. TMJ is a disorder that affects this joint and can cause pain and discomfort. Some common symptoms of TMJ include:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw joint or muscles of the jaw
- Difficulty or discomfort when opening the mouth wide
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth
- A tired feeling in the face
- Swelling on the side of the face
What Causes TMJ in Children?
TMJ can occur in children for a variety of reasons. Some common causes include:
- Trauma: A blow to the jaw or face can cause TMJ in children.
- Teeth grinding: Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a common cause of TMJ in children. This can be caused by stress or anxiety, or it may be a habit that the child has developed.
- Abnormal bite: An abnormal bite, such as an overbite or underbite, can put extra stress on the jaw joint and lead to TMJ.
- Arthritis: While less common in children, arthritis can cause TMJ in some cases.
How Does TMJ Impact Children?
TMJ can impact children in several ways. Some of the ways that TMJ can affect children include:
- Pain and discomfort: TMJ can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw joint and muscles of the jaw, which can make it difficult for children to eat, speak, and engage in normal activities.
- Difficulty opening the mouth: TMJ can make it difficult for children to open their mouth wide, which can impact their ability to eat and speak.
- Clicking or popping sounds: TMJ can cause clicking or popping sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth. While these sounds are not usually harmful, they can be distracting and make it difficult for children to concentrate.
- Headaches: TMJ can cause headaches, which can impact a child’s ability to focus and engage in activities.
- Sleep disturbances: Children with TMJ may have difficulty sleeping due to pain or discomfort in the jaw joint.
What Can Parents Do to Help Their Child Manage TMJ?
If your child is experiencing symptoms of TMJ, there are several things you can do to help them manage this condition. Some tips for managing TMJ in children include:
- Consult with a healthcare professional
The first step in managing TMJ in children is to consult with a healthcare professional. A dentist or doctor can help diagnose the condition and recommend treatment options.
- Encourage relaxation techniques
Stress and anxiety can exacerbate TMJ symptoms in children. Encouraging relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or yoga, can help reduce stress and alleviate TMJ symptoms.
- Avoid hard or chewy foods
Hard or chewy foods can aggravate TMJ symptoms in children. Encourage your child to eat soft foods and avoid foods that require a lot of chewing, such as gum or candy.
- Apply heat or cold
Applying heat or cold to the jaw can help alleviate TMJ symptoms. Encourage your child to use a warm compress or cold pack on the jaw for 10-15 minutes at a time.
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers
- Consider a night guard
If teeth grinding is contributing to your child’s TMJ symptoms, a night guard can help. A dentist can fit your child with a custom night guard that will help prevent teeth grinding and alleviate TMJ symptoms.
- Practice good posture
Poor posture can put extra stress on the jaw joint and exacerbate TMJ symptoms. Encourage your child to sit up straight and avoid slouching.
- Limit screen time
Excessive screen time can contribute to stress and anxiety, which can exacerbate TMJ symptoms. Encourage your child to take frequent breaks from screens and engage in other activities, such as reading or playing outside.
- Seek physical therapy
Physical therapy can help alleviate TMJ symptoms by improving jaw movement and reducing pain. A physical therapist can work with your child to develop an exercise program that will help strengthen the jaw muscles and reduce TMJ symptoms.
- Monitor symptoms
Keep track of your child’s TMJ symptoms and note any changes. If symptoms persist or worsen, consult with a healthcare professional.
TMJ can impact children and cause pain, discomfort, and difficulty moving the jaw. While it can be a frustrating condition to manage, there are steps that parents can take to help their child alleviate symptoms and improve their quality of life. By consulting with a healthcare professional, encouraging relaxation techniques, avoiding hard or chewy foods, applying heat or cold, using over-the-counter pain relievers, considering a night guard, practicing good posture, limiting screen time, seeking physical therapy, and monitoring symptoms, parents can help their child manage TMJ and enjoy a more comfortable and pain-free life.
The Role of Dr. Nojan Bakhtiari in TMJ Disorders Diagnosis
Dr. Nojan Bakhtiari is a highly skilled and experienced dental specialist who is dedicated to helping patients with TMJ disorders. He has extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions and uses a range of diagnostic tools and techniques to help identify the underlying cause of a patient’s symptoms.
About Dr. Nojan
Dr. Nojan Bakhtiari is a board-certified TMJ and Oral Facial Pain specialist. He focuses his practice on TMJ disorders, oral pain, facial pain and associated headaches. He treats patients in New York City. His practice is conveniently located in midtown Manhattan three blocks from Grand Central Terminal and Bryant Park.
Assistant Clinical Professor, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine
Treasurer and Committee Chair, NYU Dentistry Alumni Association
Diplomate, American Board of Orofacial Pain
Fellow, American Academy of Orofacial Pain
Chair of Membership Committee, American Academy of Orofacial Pain
Dr. Nojan shares his in-depth knowledge of the TMJ, oral and facial pain as Assistant Clinical Professor at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. He taught for 5 years at Yale-New Haven Hospital as a clinical attending and course director. He is one of very few diplomates of the American Board of Orofacial Pain and a Fellow of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain.
As an expert in the field, he has been invited to lecture at New York University, New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, New York State Dental Association, Woodhull Hospital, Lincoln Medical Center, and numerous dental societies and conferences (including Greenwich and Stamford Dental Societies, New Haven Dental Association, Connecticut Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, New England Dental Society Annual Meeting).