Treatment for Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders
The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are found on both sides of your face — just in front of the ears. These connect your lower jawbone to the skull and assist actions such as speaking and chewing. Any dysfunction of TMJs is classified as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) or TMJ disorder. Many people use the terms TMJ and TMD interchangeably.
Causes of TMJ Disorder
When the muscles and ligaments surrounding your jaw joints become irritated or inflamed, it can cause TMJ disorder. You can injure the jaw joints or the associated tissues due to various reasons. These include:
- Improper bite
- Acute trauma
- Teeth grinding/clenching
- Arthritis in the TMJ
- Disc dislocation between the ball & socket joint
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
This is more common in women than in men and mostly occurs in people 20 to 40 years of age. TMJ symptoms can present as:
- Jaw pain
- Neck or shoulder pain
- Difficulty in opening the mouth wide
- Popping, clicking, or grating sounds while opening or closing the mouth
- Locking of the jaws in the open or close position
- Difficulty in chewing
- Ringing ears (tinnitus)
- Swelling on the side of the face
- Changes in the way the teeth fit together
- Tired feeling in the face
If you believe you have pain or are suffering from the above-mentioned symptoms persistently, then it is ideal to visit a dentist. Typically, you need a dental check-up for the diagnosis of TMJ disorder. The dentist will observe the range of motion while asking you to open and close your mouth. The doctor will press around your face and jaw to determine areas of discomfort. Similarly, they will check your jaw joints while you open and close your mouth. Dentists also use radiography (x-rays and scans) to view the jaw joints.
TMJ Disorder Management & Treatment
There is a variety of treatments available for TMJ disorder — ranging from self-care practices to surgical intervention. Most dentists recommend that treatment should begin from non-surgical therapies and surgery should only be the last resort.
For example, your dentist may recommend heat or cold packs, eating soft foods when symptoms are aggravated, taking over-the-counter medications to relieve TMJ pain and swelling, corrective dental treatments, TMJ exercises, wearing a nightguard, or splint, and avoiding extreme jaw movements.
Other treatments include therapy using low-level electrical currents, deep heat treatment, radio wave therapy, Botox, and trigger-point injections.
On the other hand, dentists may recommend surgery when all treatment options have been exhausted and the patient continues to suffer from severe pain. The type of surgery required depends on your symptoms and the complexity of the case.
TMJ Specialist in Seattle
Sue Vetter’s TMJ specialist in Seattle can help you manage and treat your disorder. You will get a thorough dental check-up for proper diagnoses and determine the right course of action for you.