What is TMJ?
“TMJ” is a term that is often used to describe a collection of problems with biting, jaw joints and chewing muscles. These symptoms can masquerade as headaches, earaches, neck and shoulder tightness, toothaches, sinus problems and other symptoms of the head and face that don’t seem to be related. The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is a pair of small, complex joints located just in front of the ear on each side of the face.
What Causes These Symptoms?
Our TMJ’s are one part of the chewing system. The other parts are the muscles we use to chew and the teeth. As in any system, the different parts need to work together in order to function efficiently and effectively. If the relationship between these parts are out of balance, a person can suffer and experience many different symptoms. Sometimes people don’t have any pain, but notice noises (clicking/popping) in their jaw joints or feel like they “just don’t have a bite.”
Benefits of TMJ Treatment
Treatment for TMJ disorder provides many benefits:
- Pain relief. Treatment for TMJ can relieve the pain you feel in your jaw as well as other areas like the head, face, and ears.
- Restored range of motion. If you’re having trouble opening and closing your mouth due to TMJ disorder, treatment can restore your range of motion, allowing you to open your mouth wider without pain or restriction.
- Improved chewing ability. After treatment you should be able to chew food more effectively than before without pain.
Treatments for TMJ Disorder
There are a variety of ways to treat TMJ disorder based on what is causing the problems:
- Home remedies. The first step in treating TMJ disorder is to try basic treatments that can be done at home. Apply ice to reduce swelling and inflammation. Eat soft foods and try to avoid moving your jaw any more than is absolutely necessary to allow it to rest and heal (for example, discontinue chewing gum).
- Medication. Anti-inflammatory pain relievers are often effective at treating TMJ disorder because they relieve pain and reduce the inflammation that is causing the pain.
- Injections. Botox and injectable steroids have shown positive results in temporarily relieving the symptoms of TMJ disorder.
- Oral appliances. An oral appliance or splint can relieve TMJ symptoms by evening out your bite, lowering muscle activity and minimizing impact when the upper and lower jaw meet. It can also help to align the jaw and encourage proper movement.
- Surgery. Severe cases that are allowed to progress for a long time or don’t respond to other treatments may require surgery. Surgery is only used as a last resort when all other treatments have not provided relief.
Are You a Good Candidate for TMJ Treatment?
If you have pain in your jaw, have difficulty opening and closing your mouth, or experience any other symptoms that are listed above, you may be a good candidate for TMJ treatment. Contact us so we can help provide clarity to your individual situation. In the meantime, ice and pain relievers can provide some relief while we work to address the source of the problem and provide lasting relief.
BiteFX Consultation Technology
We are committed to the effective treatment of the destructive effects of occlusal disease. We use a novel and exciting presentation tool called BiteFX that used friendly animations to explain problems in a way that makes sense to the patient. With BiteFX, our patients quickly understand complicated concepts that were previously difficult and time consuming to explain. We can also combine photos of your mouth with the BiteFX animations to give you an even better appreciation of our treatment recommendations.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes TMJ disorder?
There are a variety of possible causes of TMJ disorder including arthritis, teeth grinding, misalignment of the patient’s bite, displacement of the disk that is located between the jawbone and the socket, an injury to the jaw or many other issues. Many TMJ issues are related to Sleep Disordered Breathing as well. All of these situations can cause inflammation and swelling that leads to pain and limited range of motion. Our team is trained to screen for signs of dysfunction during your visit.
How long does treatment take?
It depends on your situation. Some patients may find relief within a few days of treatment in mild cases. Other patients may need a longer time (several weeks to months) to heal and recover. Severe cases that require surgery would take the longest to treat and heal. We can provide a better estimate of your recovery time after performing an evaluation.
Is TMJ the same as lockjaw?
TMJ disorder is caused by a problem within the temporomandibular joint itself. One of the symptoms of TMJ disorder can be a locking jaw where you can’t open or close your mouth completely. This may be noted with noises (clicking/popping) in the joint area and may happen consistently or intermittently.