If you’ve ever heard that tell-tale clicking in your jaw and felt your jaw lock, you have probably asked yourself, “Do I have TMJ?” Researchers from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimate that nearly 10 million Americans suffer from some degree of TMJ disorders.
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint, better known as TMJ, is a joint that links your skull with your jawbone. This joint works in concert with your muscles and discs and bones so that you can eat, chew, speak, or even yawn. A TMJ disorder occurs when this system does not function properly.
Causes and Risk Factors for TMJ Disorders
Not every case of TMJ has a clear cause, but TMJ disorders can occur under the following circumstances:
- Arthritis damages the cartilage
- Injury to the joint (such as the blow to the face)
- The disk becomes misaligned
You may be at an elevated risk for developing TMJ if you experience the following:
- Injury to the jaw
- Grinding teeth at night: a mouth guard at night may be advisable in this instance
- Any disease that causes joint issues
Symptoms of TMJ
Your dentist may diagnose you by examining your jaw and your list of symptoms. Common symptoms include:
- Aching pain throughout the face including the jaw
- Localized pain around the ear area
- Tender jaw
- Difficulty opening and closing your mouth: the joint feels “locked up.”
- Difficulty chewing: chewing can also be painful
- Clicking noises that occur with any of the above symptoms: clicking noises alone do not indicate TMJ
While some patients may temporarily relieve pain with OTC pain relievers, your dentist may suggest other methods to help treat this condition. After an evaluation, your dentist will be able to create a treatment plan for you. Treatment options include pain medications, stabilizers, and surgery.
- Mouth guards: Also known as occlusal appliances, mouth guards help patients who experience pain in their jaw.
- Arthrocentesis: This procedure cleans out the joint by removing debris through irrigation via needles.
- TMJ arthroscopy: This is a surgical procedure that requires the placement of a tube into the joint. The arthroscope is placed into the tube, and then the surgery commences.
- Modified condylotomy: Unlike the TMJ arthroscopy, the modified condylotomy is surgery on the mandible, not the joint. Your dentist may suggest this surgery particularly if you experience a “locked” jaw.
- Arthrotomy: Better known as open joint surgery, the arthrotomy is used when the joint needs to be repaired – or even replaced!
Remember that only a qualified dentist specialized in TMJ should treat TMJ or recommend the appropriate course of action.
Before You See the Dentist
While you wait for your appointment, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more comfortable. Avoid irritating the jaw; choose soft or liquid foods like soup or shakes. If necessary, cut your food into smaller bites. Avoid sticky foods and candies, especially toffees and chewing gum. If pain intensifies, use hot and cold therapies to manage pain.
Are You Currently Suffering from TMJ Disorders?
Don’t suffer in silence anymore! Contact us today, and let our dentists create the treatment plan that’s best for you.