The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint connecting your jaw to your skull. TMJ is also used as an acronym for a category of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) which causes chronic, and sometimes severe, pain and loss of mobility. These disorders have many different causes, so diagnosis and treatment may take a few tries to get correct. We do have numerous treatments available, though, so come see Dr. Raptou at Raptou Family Dental if you have any concerns about TMJ/TMD.
What Is TMJ?
The TMJ is the joint that connects your upper jaw to the lower one. This is a very special joint that works like a hinge, enabling you to do such important things as talk and eat. But because of its unique design and its central role in a complex system of muscles, discs, bones, and ligaments, it is particularly prone to wear and tear.
Symptoms of TMJ/TMD
Fractures, soreness, and swelling are all common problems grouped under the umbrella of TMJ disorders. Symptoms include headaches, pain when chewing or yawning, sensitivity in your jaw muscle, and many other problems. If you can hear your jaw audibly click, then you may have TMJ disorder. While most people who hear the click don’t have it, associated pain or your jaw getting stuck can mean it’s a serious concern.
Other than chronic, severe pain and loss of mobility, TMJ/TMD also causes ear and facial pain, difficulty eating, and lockjaw. TMJ/TMD can be caused by joint injury, arthritis, teeth grinding, and other connective tissue disorders. Depending on the specific cause, your symptoms may be different.
Diagnosis of TMJ/TMD
You may not always need to see our dentist for this disorder. If you have one or two symptoms, but they are not overbearing or debilitating, then you can likely function just fine without treatment. However, if you have multiple symptoms and they are difficult to manage, give us a call.
Our dentist will first discuss your symptoms with you and provide a general examination. This involves watching the movement of your jaw, feeling for swelling or tenderness, and listening for a clicking sound when you move your jaw. After this, we will likely conduct a further diagnostic evaluation. This includes dental x-rays, CT scans, and MRI’s. Arthroscopy is sometimes used as well. This is a procedure during which our dentist inserts a small tube and camera into the joint space to observe the extent of any tissue damage.
Treatment for TMJ/TMD
There are three different categories of treatment that we may seek: medication, therapy, and surgery. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication is the most common treatment for this. These help to relieve symptoms and may prevent the need for further treatment. Tricyclic antidepressants can also be used in low doses to control pain relief and teeth grinding, also giving you a better quality of sleep. Muscle relaxants may also be used to relieve tension in the jaw.
There are a few types of therapies available. One very common treatment of TMJ/TMD is the use of oral appliances, such as mouthguards. These can help to realign your jaw and prevent teeth grinding if worn overnight. Physical therapy involves you working with a professional to engage in exercises to loosen the jaw and reduce inflammation. They can also give you instructions for home exercises and the use of ice and heat. You may also benefit from counseling to discuss nutrition and habits, such as nail-biting, that could be causing jaw tension.
Surgery is only used in the most severe cases and when other treatments for TMJ/TMD have failed. Arthrocentesis is a procedure in which a fluid is used to flush the joint of any inflammatory debris. Injections such as corticosteroids or Botox can reduce pain associated with TMJ/TMD. Modified condylotomy is a mandible surgery used to treat pain and lockjaw. Open-joint surgery may be needed to repair or replace the joint if other treatments are not an option.
TMJ & Bruxism Problems
TMJ disorder and bruxism refer to distinct but related conditions that can affect your jaw and mouth. Left untreated, they can cause a lot of problems, so it is important to understand what they are and how to deal with them. Here at Raptou Family Dental, we’re committed to helping you make fully informed decisions about your oral health.
What Is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a fancy word for grinding your teeth, whether when awake or sleeping. Bruxism can happen to anyone, often for stress-related reasons. It is also very hard to control or consciously prevent because it happens without us even realizing it. If you grind and clench your teeth a lot, then it wears down the muscles and aggravates your teeth, gums, and even bones. You may experience many of the same problems as TMJ disorder and can wear down your teeth.
How Are TMJ & Bruxism Related?
The exact link between TMJ disorders and bruxism isn’t actually known. What is known is that bruxism seems to cause and exacerbate many TMJ disorder symptoms. Many people affected by bruxism also have TMJ issues.
How Can TMJ & Bruxism Be Prevented & Treated?
There are several different at-home remedies for helping TMJ and bruxism, but as always, the best choice for treating severe pain and discomfort is by making an appointment with us. At our offices, our highly skilled dentists can perform a thorough exam and diagnose the exact problem. Because the causal link between TMJ and bruxism is not fully understood, it is important we have the opportunity to assess your exact symptoms to decide which you might be suffering from.
Depending on whether you are dealing with TMJ, bruxism, or both, we will recommend a particular course of action. Oral guards are one of the most common. This is an appliance that goes in your mouth while you sleep to protect your teeth. In more severe cases, we might recommend Botox injections or even oral surgery.
Don’t Live With Teeth Grinding for One More Day!
Severe jaw pain, whether from grinding your teeth or a TMJ disorder, can make everyday activities unbearable. Call Raptou Family Dental today at (614) 427-0449 and find out why you don’t have to live like this any longer!