TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) Disorders are a family of problems related to your jaw joints. Symptoms occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles (muscles of mastication) do not function together properly. “TMJ” stands for Temporomandibular Joint, which is the name for each joint (right and left) that connects your jaw to your skull. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important.
No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and often treatment takes time to become effective. Dr. Falk, Dr. Vitale, Dr. Niebloom or Dr. Amato can help diagnose and recommend an effective treatment plan.
Trouble with your jaw?
TMJ disorders develop for a variety of reasons. Clenching and grinding your teeth, injuries or joint disorders can damage the joints directly or stretch and damage the muscles and ligaments that support the jaw. In addition, the TMJ disc, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, or grating noises and difficulty in fully opening your mouth.
Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?
- Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
- Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
- Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
- Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
- Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
- Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock on one or both sides?
- Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat, or yawn?
- Have you ever injured your neck, head, or jaws?
- Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
- Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
- Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
- Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
- Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?
The more times you answered “yes”, the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they are treated.
There are various treatment options that Drs. Falk, Vitale, Niebloom or Amato can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of a TMJ disorder, the doctor will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment generally works best with a team approach of self-care joined with professional care. The initial goals are to relieve the muscle spasms and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, or muscle relaxant medications. Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:
- Resting your jaw
- Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
- Eating soft foods
- Applying moist heat
- Exercising your jaw
- Practicing good posture
Stress management techniques such as biofeedback or physical therapy may also be recommended, as well as a temporary, clear plastic appliance known as a splint. A splint (or nightguard) fits over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep your teeth apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. Your doctor will recommend the appropriate design for your individual needs.
What About Bite Correction Or Surgery?
If your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit together, you may need treatment such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction, or restorative dental work. Surgical options such as arthrocentesis, arthroscopy and open joint repair are sometimes needed to treat more severe cases.