If you constantly hear clicking sounds when you move your jaw, or you’re constantly feeling pain or stiffness in your jaw, you might be a prime candidate for TMJ treatment. TMJ is a disorder of the muscles and nerves surrounding your jaw bone.
It is usually caused by an injury to the temporomandibular joint, which is the bone that connects your jaw bone to your skull.
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. It is sometimes referred to as TMD. Some of the other symptoms of this potentially agonizing jaw disorder include:
- Popping and clicking sounds when you move your jaw
- Jaw pain
- Reoccurring pain in your ears
- Having to pop your ears often
- Frequent headaches
- Sore and stiff jaw muscles
- Sore temples
- Difficulty moving your jaw
- Eustachian tube issues
- Difficulty chewing
- Blurred vision
- Shoulder pain
What causes TMJ syndrome?
Temporomandibular joint disorder can be caused by blunt force injuries to the jaw bone, but there are a host of other factors that increase the odds of you needing TMJ treatment at some time in the future. These include:
- Misaligned teeth (either through genetics or injuries)
- Grinding your teeth
- Arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases
- Poor posture
- Cosmetic dentistry appliances that apply pressure on the teeth like braces
- Constantly chewing gum
How will your dentist make things better
The first thing your dentist will do is make sure the symptoms you are experiencing are indeed a result of temporomandibular joint disorder. To accomplish this, your dentist will perform a thorough physical exam. He/she might:
- Observe how well you can move your jaw
- Listen for sounds while you open and close your mouth
- Try to identify sources of discomfort and pain by pressing areas around your jaw and face
- Request X-rays or MRIs for a more detailed look at your jaw
Your dentist might also perform a procedure known as TMJ arthroscopy when examining you. During this process, he/she will insert a thin tube that has a tiny camera attached to it – known as an arthroscope – into the space around your temporomandibular joint. That makes it a lot easier for your dentist to determine if you need TMJ treatment.
Treating TMJ disorders
Once you have been diagnosed with TMD, your dentist will come up with the best treatment options for your particular case. Milder cases of TMJ can be treated with:
- Physical therapy: This includes exercises that strengthen and stretch the jaw muscles. It also includes the use of external stimuli like heat, cold, and ultrasound to alleviate symptoms.
- Mouth guards and oral splints: These can be used to prevent further damage from occurring due to grinding your teeth. Wearing a mouth guard also helps reduce the pain associated with TMJ.
- Counseling: This can help you unlearn habits that make your TMJ worse like biting your fingernails and grinding your teeth.
- Surgery: Your dentist will recommend this for more serious cases. This includes injections, arthrocentesis, modified condylotomy, TMJ arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery.
If you think you’re a prime candidate for TMJ treatment, schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss your options.