Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems relate to the comprehensive jaw joint. Those with a “clicking” of the jaw and/or pain can rest a little easier knowing that TMJ is easier than ever to diagnose early and treat.
TMJ happens when jaw joints aren’t working in sync with chewing muscles. In some instances, TMJ can cause more severe conditions, which is why catching it early and treating TMJ is so important. No treatment can completely cure TMJ, and it can take a long time for treatment to reach its greatest effectiveness.
Symptoms of TMJ
Do you have TMJ? Here are some symptoms to consider:
- Are you grinding and/or clenching of your teeth?
- Are your teeth extra sensitive, broken or worn down?
- Do you have regular headaches or neck aches?
- Do you have teeth that don’t touch when you bite or are any of them loose?
- Do you wake up with sore, stiff jaw muscles?
- Do your teeth meet differently sometimes?
- Does stress cause an increase in teeth clenching and worse pain?
- Does the pain get worse when clenching your teeth?
- Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch or lock when opening your mouth?
- Have you ever injured your neck, head or jaw?
- Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth widely, such as when you eat or yawn?
- Is it difficult to use your front teeth to bite food?
If you answered yes to a few of these questions, you might have TMJ. The more knowledge you have about TMJ, the easier it will be to understand treatment options.
Once a TMJ diagnosis has been made by Drs. Partridge or Maxfield, the best treatment course will be taken. Remember that treatment is best in a team environment, marrying expert and self care.
The immediate goals of TMJ treatment are to address pain and spasms. This is most often achieved with a muscle relaxer, pain killer and/or anti-inflammatory prescription. Steroids might be used directly into the joints, to minimize any inflammation or pain.
Patients might also be put on a self-care regimen which can consist of:
- Jaw rest
- Keeping teeth apart when not swallowing or eating
- Eating soft foods
- Applying ice and heat
- Exercising the jaw
- Practicing good posture
Managing stress and/or physical therapy can also help with TMJ. Some patients are successful with “splints,” which are temporary appliances made of a clear plastic material. Different appliances available, each with different benefits and approaches. For example, night guards help prevent grinding and clenching, while anterior positioning devices help reduce pressure on key parts of the jaw lessening disk repositioning. With an orthotic stabilizer, the jaw is forced into the right position. These devices can also help prevent tooth wear and tear.
TMJ Surgery Options
Sometimes TMJ has caused so many issues regarding teeth fit that a more serious approach is necessary. Equilibration, or bite adjustment, is an orthodontic approach that may or may not require jaw reconstruction and/or restorative dental approaches. Some surgical options may include open joint repair or arthroscopy.
Surgery is only for the most serious of cases. Generally, Drs. Partridge and Maxfield don’t recommend surgery unless the jaw is unable to open, is non-reducible or dislocated. Serious degeneration or previously unsuccessful appliance treatment may also be cause for surgery.
For help managing your TMJ condition, make an appointment today.