TMJ Disorder Treatment
To restore your jaw to normal function
A TMJ disorder means that the hinge connecting the upper and lower jaw isn’t working properly. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) attaches your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are in front of your ears. This joint allows you to move your jaw to talk, chew and yawn.
Most people have relatively mild forms of the disorder, but for others the condition causes long-term, debilitating pain. The most common symptoms include:
- Locked jaw
- Stiff or sore jaw and neck muscles
- Headaches, earaches, and pain and pressure behind the eyes
- A clicking or popping sound when you open or close your mouth
- Pain brought on by chewing, yawning or opening the mouth widely
- A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together
“A lot of times patients will come in and tell me that they’ve got TMJ going on, and so first and foremost I want to say that although most people refer to it as TMJ, what you’re actually experiencing is dysfunction of that joint, so the technical term would be “TMD” where it’s temporomandibular dysfunction. But just so there’s not any confusion, and most people refer to it as TMJ, I think we’ll just call it TMJ.
So a lot of times when people are coming in, when they come in for their exams, we always kind of check that area, see if we see anything shifting one way or the other, we look for evidence of wear on your teeth, things like that. When we’re doing our exams, when people are coming in saying that they’ve got a problem with their TMJ, it’s usually some type of pain.
Most people will tolerate clicking or popping as long as there’s no pain associated with it, but most of the time when people are coming in because they’re noticing something, it’s most commonly pain, it’s disrupting their normal everyday life, or they’ve noticed some sort of like shift or change in their bite.
TMD really can cover a wide range of problems going on. There’s disc stuff that can be going on within the joint itself, a lot of times it’s muscle issues that are going on around the outside and so if you’ve got a muscle that’s pulling one way more so than the other, that’s going to cause an uneven or an imbalance in the back.
Other things that can really make that flare up are sometimes some chronic health conditions, episodes of stress, maybe you’re doing a little more clenching or grinding, and so we might call that like acute TMJ instead of a chronic type TMJ where you’ve got kind of pain in there all the time, or a situational TMJ that comes on when you’re more stressed — that sort of thing.
It’s really important to have somebody who knows what they’re looking for help figure out what’s going on, because the treatment for a displaced disc or something going on within the joint is somewhat different than what you would do if you had some muscle issues going on.
The other thing that we tend to see is a lot of wear in some people that have issues with their TMJ, or a lot of flattening of the biting surfaces back there, because again maybe some of that clenching or grinding overtime that’s causing some of the trouble back here, or maybe the trouble is kind of contributing to that.
A lot of times, the most common types of treatment that we do in our office are mostly behavior modification type treatments. We’ll also talk about the possibility of appliances — something that you’d wear while you’re sleeping. There are some daytime appliances that we can use as well, but really determining what’s going on kind of helps us get to how do we fix that.
TMD is an area that a lot of people aren’t super familiar with and it kind of falls in this gray zone. Is it my dentist? Is that my ear nose and throat? Is it an oral surgeon? Is it a primary care provider? And my suggestion would be to start with your dentist, because they spend a lot of time kind of learning about that area, and they have a lot of good knowledge. A lot of those initial therapies will take care of most of the problems that people have.
It also goes hand in hand with your jaw position, so we also offer orthodontic services here, and sometimes by changing the position of your bite or how your teeth come together, it actually relieves some of the pressure on the joint back in here. So here’s a lot of different treatment modalities — some are very straightforward, and some get a little bit more complex. Really starting by talking to your dentist is probably your best option.”
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the cause of most TMJ problems is not clear. For many people, symptoms start without obvious reason, and while TMJ disorders can happen to anyone, problems occur more frequently in women than men.
Common risk factors for TMJ disorders include:
- Injury to the teeth or jaw
- Misalignment of the teeth or jaw
- Teeth grinding
- Poor posture
- Gum chewing
How Does Madison Family Dental Treat TMJ Disorders?
One of the best treatments for TMJ disorders is a custom-made mouth guard. At Madison Family Dental, we offer a number of mouth guards and dental appliances to ease your discomfort, most of which require two appointments at our clinic.
In milder cases, TMJ pain can often be relieved with at-home remedies. Some examples include:
- Applying moist heat or ice packs to the joint
- Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Eating soft foods and avoiding chewing gum
- Avoiding extreme jaw movements
- Massage or gentle stretches to the jaw and neck
- Reducing stress that may cause you to clench your jaw
In the rarest and most extreme cases, TMJ disorder may require surgery. Your Madison Family dentist will work with you to decide the best treatment for your specific circumstances.