Table of Content:
- What is temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder?
- What is TMJ assessment?
- How do you treat TMJ disorders?
- How do I get started?
TMJ, short for temporomandibular joint, is the joint responsible for opening and closing your mouth. We have a left and a right TMJ and these joins work together to move our jaws. Like most other joints, trauma and wear-and-tear can damage our temporomandibular joints over time. TMJ disorders lead to migraine headaches, jaw stiffness, and other head and neck related problems. People who grind their teeth aggressively and those with multiple missing teeth are particularly susceptible to developing TMJ disorders.
A TMJ assessment is an important part of any comprehensive dental examination. Early diagnosis of TMJ disorders can allow for comprehensive and effective treatment. Here’s what a typical TMJ examination looks like:
Head and neck pain or discomfort
Your dentist will start your TMJ assessment by asking general questions. This includes whether you’re experiencing frequent headaches or have other facial pain and discomfort.
Your dentist will perform a head and neck evaluation to evaluate your TMJ. This includes looking for signs of stiffness, tenderness, and other signs of TMJ disorder.
Alterations in jaw movement
Your dentist will evaluate your TMJ by having you open, close, move your jaws side-to-side and in-and-out. Your dentist will observe for pathway alterations, known as deviation or deflection, which signal early TMJ disorder.
Abnormal noises are another potential sign of TMJ disorder. TMJ noises, known as clicking, popping, or crepitus, could be early signs of disk derangement or arthritis.
If you’re suffering from TMJ disorder then you may have to seek treatment. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, your condition could worsen and lead to serious complications. There are several different treatment modalities for treating TMJ abnormalities. This includes medications, physical therapy, oral appliances, and even joint repair surgery for the worse cases. Here’s a bit more information about how you can treat TMJ disorders:
NSAIDs (Motrin), muscle relaxants, and tricyclic antidepressants are helpful medications for treating minor TMJ pain. These medications reduce inflammation of the TMJ joints which helps with pain in your joints. For more advanced TMJ disorders, you can have medications directly injected into the joint area to relive tension and stress. BOTOX® is one of those medications that is injected to relieve jaw tension and help with TMJ pain.
Try doing joint exercises and applying heat/cold to relieve the pressure in your jaw joints. You can also try a soft diet to see if it helps improve your symptoms temporarily. Counseling can help you identify and eliminate sources of destructive habits to better protect your jaw joints.
Wearing a nightguard
Most people suffering from TMJ disorders wear a custom nightguard to protect their joints from the harmful effects of nighttime grinding. Wearing a nightguard relieves the pressure exerted onto your joints and protects against destructive grinding forces.
It might not be a bad idea to see an orthodontist to see if improving your bite relationship can help. Similarly, if you have multiple missing teeth, then you should consider placing dental implants to improve your bite relationship. Most TMJ disorders stem from a poor bite relationship and improving your bite can resolve your condition. You may also want to remove your wisdom teeth, if you still have them, to see if reliving the pressure from your wisdom teeth helps.
If your TMJ does not respond to the above treatment modalities, then a more aggressive approach may be required. One option is to perform arthoscopic surgery. You want to exhaust all your other resources before resorting to surgery.
Contact your dentist if you suspect that you’re suffering from TMJ disorders. Your dentist will either treat you or refer you out to a TMJ specialist. They will evaluate your TMJ and look for signs and symptoms of joint pain or arthritis. Treating TMj disorders is a long-term project and requires patience, diligence, and trial and error. However, there is remedy out there and you shouldn’t have to suffer from pain!