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Do you suffer from persistent ear ringing or have headaches regularly? What about constant pain in your neck, face or jaw? These symptoms indicate that you may have a temporomandibular joint problem. Talk to our dentists to find out if our state-of-the-art TMJ treatment can relieve the pain.
TMJ Disorder: What Is It?
Like sliding hinges, the temporomandibular joints are located just in front of each of your ears to connect your lower jawbone to your cranium. When you open and close your mouth, you can feel the joints move with your fingers. Within them, there are nerves, muscles, blood vessels and other bones too.
The gliding function of the joint allows your mouth to open widely. The muscles and hinge motion aid with chewing food, yawning and talking. In order for these motions to be smooth, a soft cartilage covers the temporal bone and the ends of the lower jaw. There’s also a disk in between these bones.
If you have TMJ syndrome, you feel pain in the joints and muscles that control your lower jawbone. Because of that, you might have trouble with chewing or opening your mouth. When you open your mouth, you may hear a pop or click as well. Millions of people are diagnosed with this disorder, and most of them are women.
What’s the Cause of This Syndrome?
Dentists often find it hard to determine exactly what causes temporomandibular joint dysfunction. The reason is that a combination of factors contributes to its development, including genetics, jaw injuries, birth defects and arthritis.
With rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, for instance, the TMJ cartilage can suffer damage. When the joint sustains an injury, it could be damaged too. The disk in between the bones may even move out of alignment or start to deteriorate.
In addition to these factors, some connective tissue diseases may cause problems with these joints. Clenching or grinding your teeth, which is called bruxism, might also increase your risk for such problems. However, the exact cause is usually unknown. Visit our dentists to find the possible cause of TMD for you.
What Are the Signs of TMD?
A variety of signs and symptoms may indicate that you have TMJ disorder. Most of the time, it causes pain and tenderness in the joints themselves. Since the joints are right in front of your ears, you could have earaches or even tinnitus. Call our practice for an exam if you notice two or more of these signs:
- Stiff jaw muscles
- Limited jawbone movement
- Locked jaw
- Face or neck pain
- Jaw swelling
- Trouble chewing
- Joint pops or clicks
How Is TMD Treated?
You might not need professional treatment to achieve TMJ relief. In particular, it’s not required if you aren’t in pain or don’t have trouble moving your jaw. Instead, you can use at-home remedies. Not grinding or clenching your teeth, reducing swelling with ice and minimizing your jaw movements are a few. Stretch your joint muscles, and eat soft foods too.
If you continue to experience symptoms, our dentists can recommend some other solutions. You could find a TMJ cure through nondrug therapies, but your options will depend on your needs. By wearing a soft or firm mouthguard, for instance, you can avoid bruxism during the night. Education can teach you about the behaviors that aggravate the condition. Also, counseling is a good way to learn how to relax so that you don’t grind or clench your teeth because of stress.
Medications may be necessary too. Nonprescription painkillers and anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, relieve TMJ pain and swelling. Prescription tricyclic antidepressants in low doses can relieve pain and prevent bruxism. If muscle spasms are making the joints lock up, then muscle relaxants can help.
If your symptoms persist despite these treatments, our dentists might recommend TMJ surgery. You could need open-joint surgery if there’s structural damage in the joints. It consists of repairing or replacing the joints but has a great risk of complications. There are fewer risks with arthroscopy, which may be equally effective, but it depends on your situation. Sometimes, Botox or corticosteroid injections are enough to provide relief.
Discussing your options and understanding each one is important before you choose a course of treatment. Our dentists and staff will spend time explaining everything so that you can make an informed treatment decision.
Who Can Identify TMD?
For a proper diagnosis, you should see a TMJ specialist because standardized testing doesn’t exist for TMD. Our dentists will perform a range of checks during a physical exam, such as listening and feeling your mouth open and close. We’ll press around the joints in order to pinpoint your discomfort as well. If we suspect that you have TMD, we may order X-rays or other diagnostic imaging to get a better look at your joint bones and soft tissues. Ask our dentists for more information about TMJ therapy in Burke.