Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry

TMJ in Kids: What Parents Need To Know

TMJ in Kids: What Parents Need To Know

Reviewed by Dr. Henry Martinez, DMD

Reading time: 4 minutes

TMJ disorder is often associated with adults who experience excessive stress, poor posture, or a misaligned bite. But did you know kids can also develop TMJ?

In this blog post, we will explore TMJ in kids, the signs and symptoms to watch out for, and how to manage and treat this condition.

What Is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, connects the jawbone to the skull and the lower jaw. Place your fingers in front of your ears and open and close your mouth to locate it. You can feel the lower jaw gliding along the joint socket of the temporal bone.

TMJ disorders, or TMD, refer to a range of conditions that affect the TMJ. These disorders can cause pain, discomfort, and difficulty in jaw movement. They can also impact the muscles, ligaments, and other structures surrounding the joint.

Can Kids Get TMJ?

Yes, kids can develop TMJ disorders, although it is less common in children than in adults. Children and adolescents are more likely to develop TMJ because of factors like stress or trauma to the jaw. In some cases, younger children with jaw deformities from birth may also be at risk of developing TMJ.

Key Takeaway

Although less common than in adults, kids can develop TMJ disorders. They can be caused by factors such as stress, trauma, or jaw deformities. Early detection and treatment can help prevent long-term complications. If you think your child may be experiencing symptoms, visit your pediatric dentist. Encourage good oral hygiene habits and stress management to help avoid TMJ in kids.

TMJ Symptoms in Kids

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of TMJ is the first step in addressing the issue. Here are some common symptoms to watch for:

  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • Jaw pain and fatigue
  • Ear aches or ringing in the ear
  • Unexplained headaches
  • Popping or clicking that hurts in the joint
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Pain or swelling around the temporomandibular joint
  • Malocclusion or asymmetrical jaw opening

Potential Causes of TMJ in Children

Understanding the potential causes of TMJ can help parents take preventive measures to avoid the development of this condition. Some common causes include:

  • Bruxism
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Trauma to the jaw or the joint
  • Muscle spasms
  • Malocclusion or misalignment of the jaw
  • Arthritis

When Should We See a Dentist?

Don’t wait to see a pediatric dentist if your child is experiencing symptoms of a TMJ disorder. Early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the condition.

The dentist will conduct an examination and ask relevant questions. Let your dentist know about any symptoms your child is experiencing. They may also take imaging tests like X-rays to understand the condition better. These tests help them develop an appropriate treatment plan.

TMJ Treatment for Kids

If you suspect your child has TMJ dysfunction, consult their pediatric dentist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Here are some treatment options:

  1. Self-care: Encourage your child to rest their jaw, eat soft foods, and avoid extreme jaw movements. Apply ice or heat packs to help alleviate pain.
  2. Stress management: Encourage your child to practice stress-management techniques like deep breathing and relaxation exercises.
  3. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications can be used to manage pain and swelling.
  4. Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach your child simple jaw exercises and stretching techniques that help improve jaw mobility and strengthen muscles.
  5. Dental treatment: A custom-made mouthguard can help alleviate teeth grinding and clenching, reducing stress on the joint. Orthodontic treatment may also be recommended for correcting misaligned jaws.
  6. Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to correct severe TMJ dysfunction. However, most children respond well to non-invasive treatment methods.

Can TMJ Be Prevented?

While some causes of TMJ in children cannot be prevented, parents can take steps to minimize the risk of developing this condition:

  • Encourage good oral hygiene habits to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Good oral health can help support overall jaw health.
  • Limit hard or chewy foods that can stress the jaw joint.
  • Teach your child to avoid nail and pen or pencil biting, as these habits can strain the jaw.
  • Encourage your child to take breaks from activities that require repetitive jaw movements, such as chewing gum or playing musical instruments.
  • Teach your child stress management techniques to help reduce tension in the jaw muscles.

Kids Dentist in Phoenix, AZ

Although less common than in adults, TMJ in children can still be a concern.  Parents can take preventive measures by recognizing signs, symptoms, and potential causes.  Early diagnosis and treatment from a pediatric dentist can help manage and prevent further complications.

Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry is committed to providing children a fun and welcoming environment. Our friendly pediatric dentist, Dr. Martinez, offers comprehensive care for kids, including treating TMJ disorders. We guarantee a safe and comfortable dental experience for all children, including those with special needs.

If you’re looking for an experienced and caring pediatric dentist in Phoenix, AZ, look no further than Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry. Call (602) 935-7427 or complete the online booking form.

If you have been searching for the ‘top pediatric dentist near me,’ contact Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry.