TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a "clicking" sound, you will be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past.
These symptoms occur when the joints of the lower jaw and the chewing muscles (muscles of mastication) do not work together correctly. TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint, which is the name for each joint (right and left) that connects your lower jaw to your skull.
Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important.
No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and treatment takes time to become effective. Drs. Curry and Butler can help you have a healthier and more comfortable jaw.
Trouble with Your Jaw?
TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease.
There are various treatment options that Drs. Curry and Butler can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, Drs. Curry and Butler, in consultation with a dentist with expertise in non-surgical TMJ therapy, will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach.
The initial goals are to relieve the muscle spasm and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant medications. Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:
Resting your jaw.
Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating.
Eating soft foods.
Applying ice and heat.
Exercising your jaw.
Practicing good posture.
Stress management techniques such as biofeedback or physical therapy may also be recommended, as well as a temporary, clear plastic appliance known as a splint. A splint or nightguard fits over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep your teeth apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A nightguard helps relieve pain by reducing muscles tension. An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relieves pressure on parts of your jaw and aids in disk repositioning. It may be worn 24 hours/day to help your jaw heal.
Injuries can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disc which functions as the cushion of the jaw joint can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, results may include a misaligned bite, pain, a clicking or grating noise, difficulty opening your mouth as well as arthritis.
Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?
Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
Do you have frequent headaches or neck pain?
Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch or lock when you open your mouth?
Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat or yawn?
Have you ever injured your neck, head or jaws?
Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
The more times you answered "yes," the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they are treated.
What about bite correction or surgery?
If your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit together, you may need treatment such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction or restorative dental procedures. Surgical options such as arthroscopy and open joint repair are sometimes needed but are reserved for more severe cases. Drs. Curry and Butler do not consider TMJ surgery unless the non-surgical therapy has been unsuccessful and the patient continues with pain and/or diminished function.