Some estimates suggest that TMJ disorders affect more than 10 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. TMJ disorders appear to be more common in women than men, and can be temporary, but may last for years. So what are TMJ treatment options and how can you recognize the symptoms?
Understanding TMJ Treatments
First, TMJ stands for temporomandibular (TM) joints. Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) occur as a result of issues with your jaw, jaw joint or surrounding facial muscles that allow you to chew and move your jaw. The disorders are incorrectly called TMJ, which refers to the joints, rather than the disorder.
To determine whether you have TMD, your dentist will closely examine your TMJs for pain or tenderness while listening for clicking, popping or grating sounds while you move your jaw. He or she will also check for any limited range of motion or locking of your jaw while opening and closing it. In some cases, panoramic X-rays will be taken, too.
If your dentist diagnoses you with TMD, he or she may decide to send you to an oral surgeon (maxillofacial surgeon) for more specialized treatment.
Your dentist or oral surgeon may consider several treatment options and will recommend the best one for your case of TMD.
Splints or night guards: Plastic mouthpieces that fit over your upper and lower teeth will help prevent them from clenching together while correcting your bite. Splints are worn 24-7 whereas night guards are worn only at night. Your dentist will determine which one you need.
Corrective dental treatments: Treatments to correct damaged teeth, missing teeth, a faulty bite or poor alignment may be recommended. This could involve
crowns, bridges, implants or braces.
Ultrasound: Deep heat is applied to your TMJs to alleviate pain and/or improve your jaw’s mobility.
Trigger-point injections: Pain medication or anesthesia is injected into your facial “trigger points,” or muscles, to relieve pain.
Radio wave therapy: A low level electrical current is applied to stimulate, increase blood flow and relieve pain in your jaw joint.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): Low-level electrical currents are used to relax your jaw joint and facial muscles to alleviate pain. TENS can be done at your dentist’s office or at home.
Surgery: Surgery may be an option, but because it is irreversible and risky, always get a second or even third opinion before deciding to do it.
If you are diagnosed with TMD, your dentist or oral surgeon should happily answer any questions you have about treatments.
Recognizing the Signs of TMD
Lots of people suffer from facial pain, and TMD is certainly not always the cause. So what are the symptoms of TMD that warrant a call to your dentist? Symptoms of TMJ, or more correctly, symptoms of TMD include:
- Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joints, neck and shoulders
- Pain or tenderness around your ear when you speak, chew or open wide
- An inability to open wide
- Clicks, pops or grating sounds when opening or closing your mouth
- Locking of your jaw in an open or closed position
- Difficulty chewing
- A suddenly uncomfortable bite
- A face that feels tired
- Swelling on the side of your face
- Neck aches
- Headaches and/or dizziness
- Earaches and/or hearing issues
If you are having several of these symptoms, or if you have one severe symptom, call The Happy Tooth today to determine whether you have TMD, and to help relieve your discomfort before it gets worse.
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