What is TMJ Disorder?
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) is a general term for jaw pain that over 10 million Americans experience. In general, TMJ disorder or TMJD refers to pain originating in the temporomandibular joint.
Symptoms of TMJD
TMJ disorder is characterized by a number of symptoms. You may experience some of several of these.
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Difficulty or discomfort when biting or chewing
- Pain in the jaw, neck and shoulder
- Dull facial ache
- Clicking, popping or grating noises when opening or closing your mouth
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
- Earaches, ringing ears, or even hearing loss
- Headaches; TMJD can also trigger migraines
These symptoms are usually temporary.
Women and TMJD
Extensive research suggests that the disorder is 1.5 to 2 times more prevalent among women, who comprise 80% of the patients who seek treatment. For women, TMJ pain often occurs after puberty and peaks in the reproductive years, with the highest prevalence occurring in women aged 20-40. And 85% of patients with TMJ disorders also experience other painful conditions. To name a few, these include chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, endometriosis, and fibromyalgia. Because women are exclusively or over-represented in these as well as TMJD, researchers are looking for common threads like hormones that underpin these conditions.
Causes of TMJ Disorder
Nighttime grinding or clenching (bruxism), trauma, and inflammation are the most common causes of TMJD.
- Bruxism. Teeth grinding can often result in muscle spasms, specifically the muscles that control the temporomandibular joint. People who grind their teeth usually do so when sleeping. Jaw clenching often accompanies bruxism. Over time, this stresses the temporomandibular joint and tooth height and alignment. Inflammation and pain follow.
- An impact to the jaw. Any accident, punch, break, or dislocation of the TMJ can cause damage to the shock-absorbing disc that is integral to the working of the jaw’s movement. Pain in the TMJ can be brought on by dental work whereby the joint is stretched open for extended periods of time. Massage and heat application after a dental procedure can be helpful.
Diagnosis and Treatments
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, Davis Gribble Hollowwa Dental can help you by properly diagnosing and managing your pain. We believe in taking a conservative approach to treating the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorder. Make an appointment to see one of our dentists.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to TMJ treatment. At Davis Gribble Hollowwa Dental, we develop a customized TMJ treatment plan to best address each patient’s needs. We have a number of strategies we can use to help you get TMJ pain relief:
- Initial Evaluation. We will look at your jaw to see if your pain is coming from the bones, the joint, the muscles, the teeth, or any combination of the four.
- Stretches and exercises. Stretching, strengthening, and retraining muscles and other connective tissues in the joint can help alleviate pain. We will demonstrate various stretches and exercises and give you instructions on how often you need to do them at home for best results.
- Dental appliances. TMJ disorder is often the result of bite misalignment. Depending on whether teeth alignment or jaw bone positioning is the underlying cause of misalignment, we may recommend bite guards or splints, braces or other tooth replacement options.
- Aqualizer. If you have a more acute case, we may recommend wearing a device called an Aqualizer for one to two weeks. This is a fluid filled pouch–similar to a tiny waterbed that fits inside your mouth. The Aqualizer helps stabilize your jaw like the splint. This can help decrease the pain.
- Medication. We may prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug or muscle relaxant to help decrease inflammation or relax the muscles around the jaw.
- Heat therapy. Sometimes we use a laser to focus heat directly onto the region of the jaw muscle or joint. This increases blood flow to ease pain and tension.
- TMJ surgery. If you do not get sufficient TMJ pain relief from more conservative TMJ treatment methods, surgery may be necessary.
At Davis Gribble Hollowwa Dental, our patients’ safety and comfort matter. We are conservative in our TMJD treatment, always trying minimally invasive options before recommending oral surgery or permanent alignment corrections.