What Is TMJ Disorder?

TMJ is the abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint, which is the place where the lower jaw attaches to the skull. The joint is located just in front of the ear. A TMJ disorder occurs when there is a problem with that joint. TMJ disorder is very common and has a variety of potential causes. Here’s a general overview of this condition and how it is treated. 

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from TMJ disorder:

  • Jaw pain. If you have pain in your jaw, especially at the temporomandibular joint, you may have TMJ disorder. Pain can range from mild to intense depending on the severity of the case. 
  • Headaches. You may get frequent headaches secondary to muscular issues stemming from improper joint function, clenching or grinding.
  • Ear pain. The temporomandibular joint is so close to the ear that it often causes pain in the general area of the ear. TMJ disorder is often confused with an ear infection. 
  • Limited movement of the jaw. You may find that your jaw won’t open as far as it should or that you have difficulty closing your mouth. 
  • Popping or clicking sound in the jaw. When you open and close your mouth you may hear a popping or clicking sound, which is typically caused by the joint not working effectively.

Causes of TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorder can be caused by a variety of different situations and conditions, such as; 

  • Grinding your teeth. If you grind your teeth you are at a higher risk of developing TMJ disorder because of the constant pressure you are (probably unknowingly) inflicting on the joint. This can cause inflammation of the joint and the muscles in the jaw. 
  • Clenching your teeth. You may also clench your teeth together, often due to stress, which inflicts too much force on the temporomandibular joint. 
  • Chewing tough foods. Frequently chewing on hard or tough foods can put an unusual amount of stress on the temporomandibular joint, leading to inflammation and pain. 
  • Injury. A bump or blow to the jaw can throw the temporomandibular joint out of alignment and cause pain and limited range of motion. 
  • Arthritis. Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints in the body, causing inflammation, pain, and limited movement. The temporomandibular joint can also be affected by arthritis, causing TMJ disorder. 
  • Tooth Malposition. Disharmony in how the teeth contact can put stress on the joint leading to TMJ issues

Who Can Treat TMJ Disorder? 

If you have symptoms of TMJ disorder, you may be wondering who you should see about it. Do you call your primary care physician or your dentist? This is a common question that arises in the case of TMJ disorder. The best person to treat it is actually your dentist. Dentists specialize in the health of the mouth, including the jaw. While your physician could certainly give you some suggestions for self care, your dentist is the one who can best advise and treat this condition. 

How is TMJ Disorder Treated?

There are a variety of treatment options for TMJ disorder, ranging from minor home remedies to surgical procedures. Here are the most common treatments for TMJ disorder.

Self treatments include: 

  • Apply cold. Placing ice or a cold compress on the joint can reduce swelling and inflammation. 
  • Eat soft foods. Reduce the pressure on your jaw by eating soft foods and allowing the muscles to rest. 
  • Take pain relievers. Anti-inflammatory pain relievers (ibuprofen, Aleve) are the best over the counter medications to take for TMJ disorder if you are allowed to take this medication. 

Treatments your dentist my prescribe: 

  • Muscle relaxers. Medication that relaxes the muscles can treat TMJ disorder and improve range of motion. 
  • Mouthguard. A custom mouthguard can absorb the force from grinding or clenching your teeth. 
  • Steroid injections. In severe cases a steroid injection may be recommended to help accelerate healing in the jaw. 
  • Bite Adjustment. This can range from a simple minor adjustment of the bite to crowns to orthodontic therapy.
  • Surgery. If the pain cannot be remedied by any of the above treatments, surgery may be recommended. This is a last resort option for intractable pain stemming from a TMJ disorder

Progressive Periodontics and Implant Dentistry Can Treat TMJ Disorder 

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of TMJ disorder, Dr. Gordon at Progressive Periodontics and Implant Dentistry can help. We will review your status, treatment options, and recommend the best course of treatment to help you recover as quickly as possible. 

Contact us to schedule a consultation or request an appointment. We look forward to providing you with relief from your TMJ disorder.