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Do you have frequent headaches or constant ringing in your ears? Is your jaw, neck or face in pain on a regular basis? You might suffer from a temporomandibular joint condition. Schedule a consultation with our dentists to see if you need advanced treatment to relieve TMJ pain.
What Is TMJ Disorder?
The temporomandibular joint is a sliding hinge in front of your ear, and you can feel it with your fingers. There’s one joint on each side of your jaw to connect your lower jawbone to your skull. Both joints are comprised of blood vessels, bones, muscles and nerves as well.
The gliding motion of the joints let you open your mouth widely. The hinge function and the joint muscles help you yawn, talk and chew food. In addition, there’s a disk in between the lower jawbone and temporal bone as well as cartilage around each. These components keep the hinge and gliding motions smooth.
If these joints and muscles become painful, the dentist might diagnose you with TMJ syndrome. With this condition, it could be uncomfortable to chew or your jaw may become locked. A popping or clicking sound may occur when you open and close your mouth as well. Of the millions of people with this disorder, women are the most affected.
What’s the Cause of This Condition?
In general, a combination of factors contribute to the development of temporomandibular joint dysfunction, so dentists struggle to specifically pinpoint what causes it. These factors are arthritis, jaw injuries, genetics and birth defects.
If you have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, the disease can damage the TMJ cartilage. The joint can also be damaged if the area suffers a direct blow or injury. The disk could begin deteriorating or moving out of alignment.
Alongside these factors, the joints can suffer damage from connective tissue diseases. Grinding or clenching your teeth, which is a condition called bruxism, can increase the risk of developing this disorder as well. Usually, though, the cause is unknown. Visit us to see if we can pinpoint why you developed TMD.
What Are the Symptoms of TMD?
If you have TMJ disorder, then you could experience a variety of signs. Tender or painful joints are the most common. However, pain or aches around or in your ears could develop too. Since the joints are next to your ears, the disorder can even cause tinnitus. Contact our office if you have two or more of these symptoms:
- Face or neck pain
- Stiff jaw muscles
- Jaw swelling
- Limited jawbone movement
- Trouble chewing
- Locked jaw
- Popping or clicking at the joint
How Is TMD Treated?
When you don’t have limited joint movement or pain, you probably don’t need professional treatment in order to get TMJ relief. Instead, using at-home remedies may be a better solution. You can reduce swelling with ice, stop bruxism and eat soft foods. Minimize your joint movements, and stretch the joint muscles with special exercises as well.
If your symptoms don’t improve enough, our dentists will recommend a range of other treatments. Depending on your situation, a good starting point to find a TMJ cure is nondrug therapies. For instance, you could wear a soft or firm mouthguard to prevent bruxism in your sleep. For the same issue, counseling or tracking your teeth grinding can help you understand the behaviors that make your symptoms worse. Also, counseling can teach you ways to reduce stress so that you don’t clench or grind your teeth.
Medications are the next step in treatment. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can relieve TMJ swelling and pain. In low doses, tricyclic antidepressants can relieve pain and ease anxiety to prevent bruxism. Muscle relaxants can alleviate spasms that lock up the joints.
If your symptoms don’t improve with any of these treatments, TMJ surgery or other procedures might be required. Open-joint surgery is necessary when the disorder is caused by a structural issue. The surgery will repair the joint, but there are more risks involved compared to other procedures. For example, arthroscopy can be just as effective and has fewer risks. Corticosteroid and Botox injections may relieve pain as well.
It’s essential that you talk about and understand your treatment options before you decide on one. Our dentists and staff members are happy to make sure that you can make an informed decision for your health.
Who Can Detect TMD?
In order to get a precise TMD diagnosis, visiting a TMJ specialist is important. The reason is that standardized tests aren’t available for this disorder. Our dentists use your symptoms and a physical exam to start the process. The assessment will include pressing around the joints to gauge your pain and listening for clicking or popping. You may need X-rays or other imaging tests if we suspect TMD and need a closer look into your joints. Consult with our team to determine the best options for your TMJ therapy in Falls Church.