What is a TMJ Disorder?
The TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, is a complex joint in your jaw that allows you to open and close your mouth. This joint is what connects your lower jaw to your temporal bone which is in front of the ear. Issues with this joint are known as TMJ disorders and are characterized by persistent pain and clicking sounds when moving the jaw up and down and side to side. In most cases, TMJ disorders only cause temporary pain and discomfort. Many patients with TMJ disorders are able to relieve pain and manage symptoms with non-surgical treatment and painkillers. Surgical treatment is only performed if absolutely required. Certain types of TMJ problems may lead to more serious complications, however consulting with a dental professional as soon as possible can help prevent further problems.
Symptoms of TMJ disorders include:
- Jaw pain or tenderness
- Sinus pressure
- Chronic migraines and headaches
- Clicking sounds when moving the jaw
- Difficulty chewing
- Locking of the joint
- Painful or sensitive teeth
- Teeth grinding
- Neck, back, and shoulder pain
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
The exact cause of TMJ disorders varies. Symptoms are believed to be caused by complications with the jaw muscles or with the actual joint itself. Injuries to the jaw, joint, neck, or head may also lead to TMJ problems.
Possible causes of painful TMJ disorders include:
- Eroding or misaligned disks in the jaw joints
- Damaged cartilage in the jaw joints
- Jaw damage from an impact or accident
TMJ disorders may develop from risk factors including:
- Long-term teeth grinding or clenching
- Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
- Diseases that affect the body’s connective tissues
- Trauma to the jaw
When to See a Dentist?
We advise all patients to speak with our dentists about their concerns over a TMJ disorder immediately to avoid further damage to your jaw. You should seek out medical assistance if you are experiencing constant pain or tenderness in your jaw. If you are unable to properly open your mouth to chew or if you have painful headaches, you may need to be evaluated by one of our dental professionals. We can discuss possible causes and treatments for your TMJ disorder.
TMJ Treatment Options
Non-Surgical TMJ Treatment
To relieve TMJ pain without surgery patients are able to use medications such as pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxants. Other types of non-surgical treatment options include night guards, Invisalign, and braces. A night guard will help protect cartilage and joints while also preventing the negative effects of teeth grinding and clenching. Invisalign and braces will help TMJ disorders by aligning the teeth and prevent crowding, which may be putting pressure on your jaw.
Surgical TMJ Treatment
Patients may require surgical treatment for their TMJ problems if symptoms are extremely serious – the jaw is dislocated, can’t open, or has severe degeneration. This option is only considered if a patient is not responding to non-surgical treatments. Surgical procedures for this treatment include open-joint repair, dental restoration, orthodontics, and bite adjustment surgery.
Schedule a TMJ Disorder Consultation Today
If you are experiencing painful TMJ symptoms, you can contact our dental office for a consultation and learn more about TMJ disorder treatment options.