What is a TMJ Disorder?
TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a “clicking” sound, you’ll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past.
Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder
These symptoms occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles (muscles of mastication) do not work together correctly. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, and describes the anatomical space that connects your jaw to your skull. The changes to the structures that support the joint (muscles, ligaments, bones, teeth) that leads to changes in the ability to open or close the mouth, muscle pain, or even ringing in the ear, are classified as TMD. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important.
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How do TMJ Disorders develop?
TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth (nocturnal bruxism), tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position, causing a clicking, popping, or even locking of the jaw in an open or closed position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, or grating noise when you open your mouth, or difficulty opening your mouth wide.
No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and treatment takes time to become effective. Dr. Clanton and his dental team can help you have a healthier and more comfortable jaw.
Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder:
- Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
- Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
- Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
- Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
- Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
- Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
- Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat, or yawn?
- Have you ever injured your neck, head, or jaws?
- Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
- Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
- Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
- Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
- Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?
There are conservative treatment options for TMJ discomfort that Dr. Clanton and his dental team can utilize to improve harmony and function of your jaw. Once evaluation is complete, confirming an actual TMJ disorder problem, Dr. Clanton will then determine what treatment is best for each patient’s individual situation.
The initial goals of therapy are primarily to relieve muscle spasm and joint pain. This often is accomplished by prescribing anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxing medication. Self-care treatment by the patient that can often be effective and bring relief to tenderness in the TMJ area are:
- Resting your jaw
- Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
- Eating soft foods
- Applying ice and heat
- Exercising your jaw
- Practicing good posture
Other TMJ treatment options include:
Physical Therapy – Dr. Clanton works closely with physical therapists that specialize in treatment of TMJ disorders.
Occlusal (Bite) Adjustment – Surfaces of the teeth and sometimes dental restorations are adjusted/equilibrated to provide more balance, stability, and comfort to your bite.
Splint Therapy – A custom removable appliance is worn to restore your bite back into proper alignment (gently repositions muscles, joints and teeth so they can work together harmoniously).
Occlusal Guard (Nightguard Theapy) – A custom removable appliance that is designed to be worn primarily during sleep that prevents “teeth grinding” and clenching during the night.
Referral to Oral Surgeon/TMJ Specialist – Indicated when TMJ symptoms are extreme or of a long-term chronic nature or when accident, trauma, or degeneration to joint has occurred.
Conservative, reversible treatments and therapy are generally always pursued initially by Dr. Clanton. Our office’s goal is to help your teeth, muscles, and joints to all work together in harmony and to allow you to be free of discomfort.