The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the side of your head. When functioning properly, the temporomandibular joint makes it possible for you to talk, yawn, and chew. Individuals who suffer from temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ often experience severe discomfort or pain that can be temporary or last for many years. The most common symptoms of TMJ include:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw joint and/or chewing muscles
- Issues while trying to open the mouth widely
- Jaw muscle stiffness
- Swelling on the side of the face
- Radiating pain in the jaw, neck, or face
- Extremely painful popping, clicking, or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth
- Difficulty chewing
- A sudden change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together
Causes of TMJ
While trauma to the jaw or joint may contribute to TMJ, its causes are not known in many cases. However, there are some health conditions such as arthritis, habitual grinding or clenching of the teeth, erosion of the joint, and structural jaw problems that are present at birth that may prompt the development of TMJ.
Diagnosing TMJ disorders can be a challenge. A dentist or ear, nose, and throat specialist typically examines the jaw to look for signs of tenderness or swelling if symptoms of a TMJ disorder are present. Several imaging tests like X-rays, CT-scans, or MRIs of the jaw may also be performed to get a closer look of the bones and joint tissues and identify whether there are issues with the structure of the jaw.
Although there is not one single cure for TMJ, there are a variety of treatments that patients can undergo to significantly reduce their symptoms. One of the most common treatments involves applying moist heat or taking medications like aspirin, muscle-relaxants, or anti-inflammatory drugs to eliminate muscle spasm and pain.
Another effective treatment option is wearing an appliance such as a splint or bite plate that is custom-made to fit a patient’s mouth in order to reduce the damaging effects of grinding and clenching. Relaxation techniques to minimize stress and control muscle tension in the jaw may be recommended as well. In instances when the jaw joints are affected and other non-invasive treatments have not been successful, jaw joint surgery may be necessary.
Orthodontics for TMJ
If TMJ is caused by bite problems or misalignment, orthodontics may help. Braces can help move the teeth back into the correct position. Once the teeth are positioned properly, the TMJ will shift back into its optimal alignment. When this occurs, ongoing symptoms and abnormal wear and tear to the teeth will be alleviated or even completely eliminated.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of TMJ, contact Orthodontics Only today. Dr. Derek Sanders will evaluate condition and determine how his services can alleviate your pain and irritation.