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Do you have ringing in your ears or frequent headaches? What about persistent pain in your neck, jaw or face? These symptoms could be the result of temporomandibular joint disorder. Talk to our dentists to find out if our state-of-the-art TMJ treatments can give you the relief that you need.
What Does Having TMJ Disorder Mean?
Located in front of your ears, the temporomandibular joints are like sliding hinges. You have one on each side of your head, and they connect your lower jaw to your cranium. Within the joint are other blood vessels, nerves and muscles too.
The hinge function of the joint and muscles allows you to open and close your mouth for talking, yawning and chewing food. The gliding motion allows you to open your mouth wide. Soft cartilage covers the temporal bone and the round ends of the lower jawbone. With a disk in between too, these motions stay smooth.
When these muscles and joints become painful, you may struggle to chew food or simply open your mouth if the joints lock up. There could be a click or pop when you use these motions too. Dentists refer to these issues as TMJ syndrome. Millions of people develop this condition, and more of them are women than men.
What Causes This Condition?
Dentists tend to have trouble pinpointing the specific cause of temporomandibular joint dysfunction since the condition can develop from a combination of factors. Some of these are jaw injuries, genetics, arthritis and birth defects.
For instance, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can damage the cartilage in the TMJ. If you suffer an injury, the joint could be damaged. There’s also the possibility of the disk moving out of alignment or deteriorating.
Along with these factors, damage can occur if you have a connective tissue disease. In addition, your risk of developing this condition increases when you clench or grind your teeth, which is a disorder called bruxism. Most of the time, though, the specific cause remains unknown. Talk to our dentists about the possible cause of your TMD.
Which Signs Indicate That Patients Have TMD?
TMJ disorder can have a variety of symptoms and signs. In most cases, the joints themselves become tender or are painful to use. Because of where the joints are located, you could experience outer or inner earaches. Even tinnitus is a possibility. Call our office for a checkup if you experience more than one of these symptoms:
- Neck or face pain
- Stiff joint muscles
- Swollen jaw
- Restricted jaw movement
- Difficulty chewing
- Locked joint
- Clicking or popping at the joint
What Are the Treatment Options?
You don’t always need professional treatment for TMD, especially if you don’t have pain or limited joint movement. If that’s the case, at-home remedies could improve your condition. Exercising your jaw, eating softer foods and reducing your joint movement are potential solutions. Avoiding bruxism and applying ice to reduce swelling may provide TMJ relief.
When you keep experiencing symptoms, our dental team will recommend more proactive treatments. We might start the search for the best TMJ cure with nondrug therapies, but these options depend on your condition. Wearing a firm or soft mouthguard overnight, for example, can stop bruxism as you sleep. Learning more about the condition can help you avoid behaviors that aggravate the joint problem. Since stress can lead to bruxism, learning relaxation techniques through counseling sessions may provide further relief.
Medications are helpful TMJ treatments too. Ibuprofen, nonprescription anti-inflammatories and painkillers are useful for relieving pain and joint swelling. To reduce anxiety and avoid bruxism, a low-dose tricyclic antidepressant may work if needed. For spasm and locked joint relief, you could take a muscle relaxant.
If your symptoms persist despite using these treatments, you might need TMJ surgery or another procedure. In cases of structural issues in the joints, open-joint surgery might be required. It involves replacing or repairing the joint, but it has higher risks than other procedures. Arthroscopy, for instance, has fewer risks and may be just as effective. For more substantial pain relief without invasive surgery, you could get corticosteroid or Botox injections.
Before you decide on a course of treatment, you should learn about and understand each of your options. Our dentists and staff are happy to explain the details in order for you to make a sound health decision.
Who Diagnoses TMD?
To get an accurate TMD diagnosis, you should visit a TMJ specialist because there aren’t any standardized tests to identify it. Instead, our dentists will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. This will involve pressing around the joints to pinpoint your pain and listening to your mouth open and close. If we think that you have TMD, we’ll order X-rays or other diagnostic imaging to see inside of your joints. Talk to us afterward about your options for TMJ therapy in Vienna if you receive a positive diagnosis.