Temporomandibular joint disorder, called TMJ or TMD for short, is actually a collection of conditions that affect your jaw. About 10 million people in America have some form of TMJ/TMD. Causes can vary and include genetics, injury, jaw clenching or teeth grinding during sleep, and arthritis. TMJ/TMD is often very painful and the cause is sometimes hard to determine for sure. That said, we do have a variety of treatments available for TMJ/TMD. Our dentist at Tigard Family Dental will explain home treatments that you can do yourself as well as treatments provided at our office.
Signs of TMJ/TMD
There are a variety of symptoms that you can experience with TMJ/TMD. In general, you will only need to seek treatment if you lose mobility, or everyday tasks such as eating, become difficult. For example, your jaw may “crack” or make a clicking sound but, this is not necessarily something to worry about if it is the only symptom you have. However, when you have multiple symptoms, this disorder can become rather unpleasant. Other symptoms of TMJ/TMD include jaw tenderness or pain, facial pain, ear pain, difficulty in chewing, and lockjaw (when the joint “locks”). Conditions that would cause you to seek professional treatment would include persistent symptoms or a loss of mobility.
Treatments for TMJ/TMD will vary depending on your specific symptoms, condition severity, and potential cause of the disorder. Most often, this disorder can be treated with medication and/or therapy. In severe cases, you may need surgery to correct any malformation or misalignment.
Our dentist typically prescribes pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatories. If this is affecting the quality of your sleep, our dentist may also give you a prescription for a sleep aid. Antidepressants can also be used in low doses for pain relief or as a sleep aid.
Therapy refers to various forms of physical therapy. This includes general physical therapy as well as mouth guards. A physical therapist would walk you through stretches and exercises for your jaw. They will also use heat and ice to relieve pain or inflammation, as well as teach you exercises to use at home. Mouth guards prevent you from grinding your teeth at night, a condition known as bruxism. This relieves jaw tension and also protects your teeth from damage. Our dentist will also consult with you on daily habits that may cause TMJ/TMD. For instance, many people lean their chin on their hand, but this can cause misalignment and jaw tension. Fingernail biting can also lead to jaw tension.
Surgery is saved for the most severe cases. Surgery may involve injection, arthrocentesis, modified condylotomy, and open-joint surgery. Prior to your procedure, you may also need to have an arthroscopy. This is when our dentist creates a small incision so that a camera can be inserted into the jaw and they can determine the extent of the damage. Injections would be corticosteroids or Botox, which can help reduce inflammation and ensure that the jaw is in the proper position. Arthrocentesis is the use of small needles in the joint to inject a liquid which flushes out debris creating inflammation. Modified condylotomy increases the space in the joint, relieving pain and lockjaw. Open-joint surgery either repairs or replaces the entire joint. This is only used in extreme cases.
Our dentist will also explain treatments you can use at home. This includes diet habits, like avoiding gum and only eating soft foods, self-massage, stretches, and using heat and ice. For more information on TMJ/TMD and its treatment, contact Tigard Family Dental at (971) 762-1262 now.