You may have read our blog from a couple of months ago about how to know you are having trouble with your TMJ. If not, you can read that HERE. It will give you some insight into the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction before we actually dig into the causes and treatments.
Today, our focus is on treating TMJ dysfunction (TMD). TMD is much more common than anyone realizes because the symptoms are so sporadic that because often don’t recognize TMD for what it is. You might just think you have a headache, sinus problems, or a shoulder injury.
TMD causes pain, sounds, and other sensations, but every patient experiences TMD in a unique way. When we discover TMD for a patient, it is sometimes purely by accident simply because of something the patient says, which is just another reason why maintaining routine appointments (and a great relationship with our staff) can help you keep a healthier mouth!
What is my TMJ?
Let’s begin by talking about the TMJ itself. TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint. This is the very important part of your body that holds your lower jaw in place. We say it is very important because your life would be drastically different without the work of the TMJ opening your lower jaw thousands of times each day.
So, where is this mysterious joint? Do a little exercise. Put your pointer and middle finger along your lower jaw bone, and work towards your ear. You will come to an edge, and then the jawbone goes up in front of your ear. Now, begin gently opening and closing your teeth. You should feel your TMJ working; it will feel a little bit like a pulse each time your jaw opens.
That small area in front of your ear can have a massive impact! When something goes wrong, TMD will begin, and you will feel it!
What Went Wrong?
So, what caused your TMJ to form a dysfunction? There are many possibilities! Let’s look at the three that we see most commonly.
Injury: A knock to the jaw can be enough to cause damage to your TMJ. The joint itself might be damaged, or your jaw could be damaged, which puts added pressure on the TMJ, which would cause the pain.
Wear and Tear: Joint get older and suffer damage. It happens to your knees, your elbows, and your hips, so why wouldn’t it happen to your jaw? When it does, you form TMJ pain, and we need to take care of it so that you can go back to a healthy mouth.
Bruxism: There is one condition that seems to drive TMD cases, and that is bruxism. Bruxism is a condition where the patient clenches or grinds teeth throughout the day but especially through the night. The constant stress damages the TMJ.
Is it Treatable?
YES! TMD is treatable! In most cases, we don’t have to do anything extreme, but we do need to do SOMETHING to help your TMJ get the rest and treatment it needs. Let’s take a look at what the treatment process looks like.
Start at the Office
If you notice signs of TMJ pain or discomfort, your first step is to set up an appointment with us here at the office! It won’t take us long to determine if your pain is caused by TMD. From there, we will begin to consider treatments. More treatments are done at home, but serious cases might require in-office work.
Because most TMD is caused by stress and bruxism, that is generally where we begin treatment. We’ll begin by evaluating your pain to try to find a pattern. If we can find your stress, like work, we’ll begin there. Relaxation methods are a great way to help your jaw stay relaxed throughout the day and night.
You might find that you have a bad habit of chewing on pens, clenching your teeth while you exercise, or grinding your teeth when you drive through traffic. We can help you learn techniques to avoid those bad habits. If you are grinding your teeth while you sleep, however, you might benefit from an oral appliance called a night guard.
This guard is custom fit to your smile so that it is comfortable to wear. It will protect your teeth and jaw from damage should you clench your teeth while you are sleeping.
The Last Resort
The last resort for TMD treatment is to take a surgical approach. In this case, you need someone to repair or clean the actual joint itself. There are a few levels of TMD surgical treatment, and we will make sure you get what you need to end the pain and discomfort as quickly as possible.
TMJ Pain Won’t Disappear
TMJ pain won’t fade away on its own one day. It is something that needs to be treated through the dental office. As you can see, most of our treatment options are very low risk and have little to no discomfort, but the payoff is astounding.
Let’s Get Started Today
Don’t live with TMJ pain for another day. Even if you’re not sure that your TMJ is the cause of your discomfort, go ahead and call! Set up your next cleaning and exam, and let us know of your suspicions!
Contact us today! We can’t wait to help you have a more comfortable smile.