Have you ever felt a pain in your jaw accompanied by a popping or clicking sound when you open your mouth? Do your ears ring constantly? Do you get headaches more often than you used to? There are many symptoms related to TMJ, otherwise known as TMD, but if you have experienced any of these, there is a chance that you could benefit from TMJ treatment.
What is TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint disorder, also called TMJ and TMD, is a very serious disorder that millions of adults suffer from every year. Because it is not as well known for being such a debilitating issue, it often goes untreated for much longer than is necessary. When a person has this disorder, the joint or muscles, or both, that make the jaw work have suffered some kind of trauma that has caused there to be changed in the bite or even in the skeletal structure of the jaw.
The joint that is impacted by TMJ is located right under the ear, where the jaw and the skull meet. If you have ever clenched your jaw and felt the tight knot of bone right under your ear sticking out, this is the joint we are concerned with. This joint is one of the body’s most intricate joints, with many muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments supporting it. Even a slight amount of trauma can cause this joint to develop issues. Those may include a misaligned bite, crowded or crooked teeth, an overbite, and issues with a person’s airways.
What Causes TMJ?
There are a great many things that can cause TMJ or TMD. The most common is a misaligned bite, something that some children are born with. When the teeth do not meet properly, the strain on the joint can cause issues, even when the jaw is at rest.
Many people know of TMJ as “lockjaw,” the painful but temporary condition in which the jaw “locks” closed. This is one way that TMD presents, and is caused by stressing the jaw through any activity that requires the jaw to be open very wide for a long period of time. The joint can even become stressed due to a simple procedure such as having a cavity filled. The jaw is open for a longer period of time than is usual while your dentist works.
What Symptoms Can TMJ Treatment Relieve?
When you visit your dentist in baytown gentle dental, one of the first things we will discuss with you is the symptoms you are experiencing. TMJ can cause a variety of painful symptoms such as:
- Locked Jaw
- Popping or clicking noises when the jaw moves
- Painful teeth
- Teeth grinding
- Loose teeth
- Chipped teeth
- Teeth that appear worn
- Jaw clenching
- Gum recession
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Ringing noise in the ears
- Arm pain
- Back pain
- Hip pain
- Knee pain
- Pain in the feet or ankles
- Migraines or headaches
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers and toes
- Pinched nerves in the spine
Any of these symptoms could become very troublesome in your day to day life. Some may even make it difficult for you to concentrate at work, carry on a social life, or leave your bed. Additionally, it could become difficult to eat for many sufferers of TMJ. TMJ treatment is an effective way to get rid of these symptoms, and it is our goal here in baytown gentle dental to help you enhance your quality of life.
Many TMJ Treatment Options
There are many ways that your dentist can treat TMJ in baytown gentle dental, and when you arrive at our office, we will walk you through all the options that would be right for you. We can help you decide which treatment path to take to ensure that you never have to suffer from TMJ pain again.
The reason that there are so many treatment options is due to the range of what can cause TMJ. We will treat the TMD differently depending on what caused it, whether that is a trauma to the muscle around the joint, or problems with the joint itself. Some of those treatment options include:
Medicines to Reduce Pain
This can include NSAIDs, muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety medication, and antidepressants. These can all be used to help reduce pain and stress so that you do not clench your jaw.
Splints are oral tools that fit over your teeth, and stop the teeth from coming together. They are typically worn at night and are meant to prevent teeth grinding or clenching. Some dentists may recommend you wear a splint during the day to take the pressure off your bite.
TMD can be treated with simple physical therapy, similar to the way a broken leg is retaught how to walk.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS
This is a therapy that uses electrical currents to help relax the joint and muscles around the joint. This can be a good way to relieve pain.
This is a heat treatment that is used with physical therapy to help reduce lockjaw.
This treatment uses injectable pain medicine, or an anesthetic, to relieve pain in the jaw.
Some TMD sufferers have found acupuncture to be very effective at relieving symptoms.
For a surprising number of TMJ sufferers, Botox injections that “freeze” the muscles around the joint have been very helpful.
Crowns or Other Dental Restorations
If your bite is misaligned, we may be able to correct this problem with dental crowns or other restorations.
In order to determine which option is best for you, we will begin with a special CT scan that gives us a 3D look at your skull structure. We will be able to see your bite, the joint itself, the location of the disc that sits on top of the joint, and various other parts of the anatomy that can play a part in TMD. With this information, we will know the best way to proceed.
TMJ Treatment Surgical Options
If the treatments listed above do not work, there are many different types of TMJ surgical options that can be pursued. Surgery is typically only an option if you have exhausted all other options, and are still in so much pain that your daily life is impacted. Surgery will only be helpful if the TMJ is caused by a structural problem in the joint itself, rather than fatigue or trauma to the muscle. For some of our patients here in baytown gentle dental, we may recommend surgery first. These include those who have degenerative diseases, where the issue is very clearly a structural problem.
There are certain risks with getting TMJ surgery because surgery cannot be reversed once it has been done. However, the surgical options we provide are only performed by an experienced dentist in baytown gentle dental.
These surgery options include:
- Arthroscopy: You will be placed under general anesthesia, and the surgeon will make an incision in front of your ear. Through this incision, we will guide a very tiny camera to inspect the TMJ and learn why the issue is occurring. During this procedure, we may remove some tissue, adjust a disc, or adjust other parts of your jaw anatomy to correct the problem.
- Open joint surgery: This is similar to an arthroscopy, but there is no camera involved. Instead, the surgeon will make an incision in front of the ear and operate based on what they see. If you have degenerative TMJ or there are tumors in or around the joint, this option is usually recommended.
Many of our clients in baytown gentle dental worry about scars considering the incision is made on the face. However, we have found that these incisions heal very quickly and are almost never noticeable. There is one final surgical option for extreme cases: a total joint replacement. In this case, the joint would be so damaged that there is no way to adjust it so that you can lead a pain-free life. This option is an extremely rare form of TMJ treatment.
When Should I Seek TMJ Treatment?
One of the biggest concerns we have for our patients here in baytown gentle dental is the fact that so many let their TMJ go for weeks, months, or even years without seeking TMJ treatment. This disorder can progress very quickly. What starts as a mild toothache one week, can become full-blown migraines and tingling fingers the next week. This is a serious medical condition that should be treated as soon as you suspect something is wrong. However, when TMJ is caught early, it can be dealt with very quickly and easily. Should a client come to us in baytown gentle dental with a bit of jaw popping, we will be able to help them reduce or get rid of this symptom before the more painful symptoms ever show up.
All of that to say that it is important to seek out TMJ treatment as soon as you suspect you are suffering from TMJ or TMD. Your dentist in baytown gentle dental can help you avoid painful symptoms right away