You may have heard of TMJ disorders, but what exactly are they? TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, which connects your skull and jawbone. Arthritis, a jaw injury or even genetics can cause pain in this joint and the surrounding muscles. The pain may be caused by eroding discs and damaged cartilage. This can make it painful to open and close your mouth, which means you may have trouble eating or speaking.
In most cases, TMJ disorders resolve themselves on their own through self-care such as over-the-counter medications and ice packs. Mouthguards can keep patients from clenching or grinding their teeth, which can help alleviate the pain caused by TMJ disorders. However, some cases are severe enough to require surgery. Our office can assess your situation and determine the best course of treatment.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
- Pain in the jaw
- Pain in the temporomandibular joints
- Facial pain
- Aches or pain around the ear
- Painful or difficult chewing
- Clicking sound when you open your mouth
- Locking jaw, making it impossible to open or close your mouth
Diagnosing TMJ Disorders
If you think you may have a TMJ disorder, schedule an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist will have you open and close your mouth and listen for any clicking sounds. He or she will press on your jaw to see where you are experiencing pain. Your dentist will also feel around the area to identify any abnormalities.
If there is a possible TMJ issue, your dentist will take X-rays of the jaw. CT scans and MRIs may also be needed to obtain images of discs, bones and surrounding tissues. If these methods do not yield anything, your dentist may use arthroscopy to view the jaw through a special camera.
Types of Treatment for TMJ Disorders
Your dentist will likely try conservative treatment methods at first to help alleviate the pain. You will likely be prescribed pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications. if you are suffering from muscle spasms, muscle relaxants may be used.
Besides medications, other therapies may be used. If your TMJ pain is caused by grinding our teeth, a mouth guard may be useful. Physical therapy, such as ice, ultrasound and special exercises, can help relieve pain. Injections may be also helpful. Botox is sometimes injected into the jaw muscles to reduce chewing pain.
In some cases, certain habits may be causing you TMJ pain. For example, clenching your jaw, biting your fingernails or chewing on pencils and other objects can sometimes lead to TMJ disorders. Your dentist may educate you about these bad habits. Since these actions are often stress-related, your dentist may recommend less harmful forms of stress relief.
If these methods do not help, surgery may be recommended. Arthrocentesis involves inserting small needles into the temporomandibular joint to drain fluid, remove debris and reduce inflammation. If your jaw pain is caused by a structural problem in the joint, open-joint surgery to repair or replace the joint may be recommended. However, this is the riskiest type of surgery and should be carefully considered.
Contact Us Today
If you are suffering from the symptoms of a TMJ disorder, it’s important that you get checked out. If you are suffering from pain or tenderness in the jaw, or have problems opening and closing it, you may benefit from treatment. Moreover, contact our Arlington office today to schedule a consultation.