TMJ Treatment

TMJ, which is also known as TMD, stands for the temporomandibular joint. TMJ is a disorder that affects the jaw joint. This can cause reoccurring debilitating pain in the jaw if left untreated or misdiagnosed.

The TMJ is the jaw joint that connects the mandible (lower jaw) to the temporal bone of the skull. It assists in the basic opening and closing movements of the jaw and is one of the most intricate joints in our bodies. Many people don’t know that they have TMJ and experience pain for years before they’re properly diagnosed by a TMJ doctor.

What are symptoms of TMJ Disorder?

  • Clicking or popping of the jaw when opening, closing, or shifting the mouth
  • Regular headaches and facial pain
  • Limited ability to open the jaw
  • Pain or tenderness in the neck or ear when talking, chewing or opening the mouth wide
  • Swelling on the side of the face
  • Aching pain in or around the ear

Since these symptoms may be a result of other conditions, a thorough examination is needed to receive an accurate diagnosis and to design an efficient treatment plan.

At Werner Orthodontics, we offer a TMJ exam that evaluates the joint tissue in the “hinge” of the jaw. Possible problems include swelling, deterioration of the joint tissue or damaged joint tissue (which cushions the jaw bones during the opening and closing movement of the mouth). Common pain relievers and cold compresses can provide temporary relief for most cases of TMD.

For more serious cases of TMD, we will recommend alternate treatments. Often, we will suggest using a mouthguard to relieve teeth grinding. In some cases, we will instruct you to use orthodontic appliances or retainers to alleviate discomfort or redirect positioning of the TMJ joint. For the most severe cases of TMD, we may recommend certain invasive procedures.

What causes TMJ/TMD?

The exact causes of TMJ disorders can vary and may include:

  1. Jaw injury: A direct blow to the jaw or whiplash can lead to TMJ problems.
  2. Arthritis: Various forms of arthritis can affect the TMJ.
  3. Teeth grinding or clenching: Habitual teeth grinding or clenching, known as bruxism, can stress the TMJ.
  4. Misalignment of the jaw or teeth: Issues with the way your teeth fit together (malocclusion) or misalignment of the jaw can contribute to TMJ disorders.
  5. Stress: Stress can cause you to tighten facial and jaw muscles, potentially leading to TMJ symptoms.

If you suspect you have a TMJ disorder, it’s essential to see a healthcare professional or dentist experienced in treating these conditions. They will perform a thorough evaluation, which may include physical examination, imaging (X-rays, MRI), and possibly dental impressions to assess the alignment of your teeth and jaw.

Treating Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders will vary depending on the cause of the disorder and the severity of the state of the condition. Our doctors will prescribe the best treatment method and provide personalized treatment options for each patient. Treatment of TMJ can vary from stress management to surgery.

Preventing TMJ From Worsening

It is important to avoid stretching or popping the jaw. Knowing what movements may trigger popping in the jaw can help TMJ from getting worse. Some self-treatment measures include applying ice regularly, reducing stress, and not eating hard foods. Preventing grinding of the teeth and sleeping with a mouth guard in can also help TMJ. Avoiding certain sports that can cause teeth grinding like running are also a preventative measure. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relief medications or prescribe muscle relaxers to help with the pain of TMJ. Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy to help muscle tension in the jaw. Counseling may be recommended if there are possible psychological factors at play that are causing teeth or jaw clenching. In more rare, severe TMJ cases, surgery or injections may be necessary to intervene.

It’s crucial to follow the advice of your healthcare professional and avoid self-diagnosis or self-treatment as some symptoms of TMJ disorders can overlap with other conditions. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most people with TMJ disorders can find relief from their symptoms.