A lot of people may not have heard of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), but those are the two parts of the body we use most on average. You use yours every day, whether you’re speaking, yawning, chewing or swallowing. The TMJ are located at the base of the skull and function like a sliding hinge on both sides of your jaw, connecting the jawbone to the skull. When someone experiences malfunctions where these hinges fail to work together properly, this is often a sign of a TMJ disorder.
This term encompasses a family of problems related to your jaw joints, muscles that control the jaw, and facial nerves connected to them. What makes this issue most difficult to treat, however, is that too many people choose to ignore the issue and wait to see if it will pass or self-medicate instead of seeking help, which in turn can lead to symptoms worsening. Because certain TMJ disorders can open the door to more serious conditions if left untreated, catching these telltale signs early is crucial.
Fortunately for everyone, these problems are easier to diagnose and correct than ever before, thanks to advancements in dental science, care, and technology. Here at Honest Oral Surgeon, we take every step to ensure top quality TMJ treatment while providing you with all the information you need. If you or a loved one are suffering from pain, discomfort, a clicking sound, or other abnormalities in the jaw and suspect TMJ disorders as the cause, please call us today at (949) 298-4078 to schedule a visit and discuss your options.
Causes of TMJ Disorder
TMJ problems can present themselves for several reasons, depending on your everyday dental habits and oral care. These include but are not limited to:
- Clenching or grinding your teeth.
- Tightening jaw muscles, which puts stress on your TMJ joints.
- A damaged jaw joint as a result of injury or disease.
- Arthritis can directly cause joint damage or tear muscle ligaments. This can lead to the disk, which is made of cartilage and acts as a cushion for your jaw joint, slipping out of alignment. If you already struggle with arthritis in other joints, this can be a warning sign of it affecting the TMJ.
TMJ Disorder Symptoms
- Waking up with sore, stiff jaw muscles.
- Recurring headaches or neck aches.
- General jaw pain or discomfort, which worsens from clenching your teeth.
- Difficulty or pain when opening your mouth wide to eat or yawn.
- A clicking, popping, grating, catching, or locking sensation when you open your mouth.
- Teeth that no longer touch or don’t always meet properly when you bite down.
- Difficulty using your front teeth to bite or chew.
- Tooth sensitivity.
- Loose, broken, or worn teeth.
TMJ Disorder Treatment
Dr. Kim will meet with you to evaluate your case and determine how best to restore your jaw’s health and function. Upon confirming diagnosis and the cause, treatment options will be narrowed down from there. Our team prioritizes a cooperative approach with the patient, combining self-care at home with professional care here.
Depending on how improperly your teeth are aligned, bite correction may be needed (Ex: Bite adjustment, jaw reconstruction, restorative dentistry). In severe cases such as when the jaw is dislocated and non-reducible, can’t open, suffers advanced degeneration, or the patient has already received unsuccessful appliance treatment, surgical options like arthroscopy or open-joint repair structuring are a last resort. Rest assured, however, whatever the treatment, your comfort is always emphasized.
The first goal of any treatment is alleviating all joint pains and muscle spasms, which is commonly done with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, or muscle relaxant. If necessary, steroids can also be injected directly into your TMJ joints. Apart from medical treatment, there are a variety of at-home exercises to help with daily jaw-related challenges, including:
- Resting the jaw.
- Keeping the teeth apart except when eating or swallowing.
- Eating softer foods.
- Application of ice alternating with heat.
- Exercising the jaw for an instructed amount each day.
- Practicing better posture.
Remember, for any questions you or a loved one may have about TMJ or TMJ disorders, don’t hesitate to call Honest Oral Surgeon at (949) 298-4078