TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, which is the bone structure, muscles and connective tissues that surround the jaw and control chewing. When patients experience disorders of this joint, they are said to have a temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD. As the jaw grows through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood, complications can occur within this small joint, leading to chronic pain and other issues that affect a person’s overall quality of life. Symptoms of TMD include pain and tenderness near the jaw, as well as popping or clicking in the joint when speaking or chewing. There are many ways of treating TMJ disorders, ranging from non-invasive therapy and bite splints to injections or surgery. Left untreated, however, TMJ disorders can lead to headaches, muscle pain, malocclusion of teeth and tooth damage from clenching or grinding teeth in sleep. By visiting an oral surgeon for TMJ disorders, patients can receive a proper diagnosis and discuss some of the many options for treatment.
Did you know…
TMD alone is not a disorder, but instead a collection of disorders that affect the temporomandibular joint? It is the second most common pain-causing musculoskeletal condition in the U.S. according to the U.S. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. As many as 12 percent of Americans may suffer from some type of TMD, with women seven times as likely to be affected as men. But despite the prevalence and wide availability of treatment, only one out every three people with TMD seek treatment.
Did you know that TMJ problems are often exacerbated by stress? It is not uncommon for people under chronic or significant stress to clench their teeth at night while sleeping, worsening pre-existing symptoms. By adopting stress-minimizing habits, it may be possible to reduce the severity of TMJ problems and prevent them from worsening.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are TMJ disorders commonly treated?
Millions of people suffer from TMJ disorders though many go undiagnosed or otherwise untreated. However, we treat many TMJ patients at our office, using the full extent of our resources and experience to relieve pain and other symptoms associated with temporomandibular joint disorders.
What are the symptoms of a TMJ problem?
TMJ disorders do not always cause pain. Instead, other problems may occur – some seemingly unrelated. Examples include shoulder pain, headaches, dizziness, facial swelling, frequent earaches and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Sometimes the symptoms are more obviously related to TMJ, such as jaws that pop, click or become stuck in specific positions.
What types of treatments are available for TMJ disorders?
TMD treatment is different for everyone depending on the severity of their symptoms. Options can range from pain management medications and muscle relaxants to joint injections and surgical interventions. However, only an oral surgeon can determine the most effective form of treatment for each patient. We recommend that anyone experiencing jaw problems, chronic pain or other symptoms of TMD seek a professional consultation right away.
How do I know if TMJ treatment is right for me?
You will first need to be formally examined and diagnosed with TMJ disorder. Your dentist will evaluate the extent of the condition and determine what course of treatment is best for you. Usually, the initial approach involves conservative treatments, such as self-care, physical therapy and bite guards also known as bruxism mouth guards. Medications may also be used to relax the jaw or relieve pain. Patients who do not respond to conservative treatments may be considered for surgery or joint injections. Patients with even more chronic, unresolved TMJ, may need temporamandibular joint disorder total joint arthroplasty (TMD TJA).
What should I expect if I undergo treatment for TMJ?
TMJ treatment varies from patient to patient, so your experience may be very different from someone else’s. You’ll probably be asked to adopt certain lifestyle changes to help facilitate rehabilitation in your jaw. For example, you may be asked to avoid sudden jaw movements, such as yelling or yawning. You may also need to begin sleeping on your back and take steps to reduce your stress levels.
Will I need to follow any special post-care instructions while being treated for TMJ?
Your post-treatment care instructions will vary according to the type of treatment you receive. If you require surgery, we may recommend a liquid diet. You’ll also need to apply ice to the face to minimize swelling while keeping the surgical site clean and dry.