If you’ve ever experienced a clicking or popping sound in your jaw when you open or close your mouth, you may have a disorder called TMD – Temporomandibular Joint Disorder – sometimes called TMJ. TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint and the disorder is commonly, although mistakenly, referred to as this. It is not uncommon for adults between the ages of 20 to 40 to be afflicted with this disorder, affecting about 1 in 10 patients, according to the AAFP.
Common Symptoms of TMD
A patient with TMD will typically have stiff jaw muscles, earaches, pain when chewing, pain in one or both jaw joints, pain in the face or the neck, and problems with their bite or the way in which the teeth fit together when the mouth is closed. Although you may experience the popping or clicking sound, if you don’t have any of the other symptoms listed, you probably don’t have TMD.
How the TMJ functions
The temporomandibular joint is a complex joint located in the back of your jaw that allows your jaw to move up and down, side to side, and front to back. It’s essentially a sliding hinge composted of bones, muscle, and a small piece of firm tissue (cartilage) that acts as a shock absorber and protects the bones against normal wear and tear.
Common Causes of TMD
It isn’t always clear what causes a patient to contract TMD but commonly, it’s when the piece of cartilage that protects the joint slips out of place. It can also be caused by a dislocated jaw or other facial injury, arthritis, or grinding your teeth. Oftentimes after orthodontic treatment such as braces, patients believe the realignment of their bite can cause TMJ issues. There is no research that supports that fear.
When a patient suspects a TMJ issue, the dentist will look for signs such as inflammation of the jaws, clicking or grinding noises, and also test movement of the jaw in any direction. X-rays or other imagery may be necessary to help the doctor get a better look at the joint for a complete diagnosis.
Treatment of TMD
Your dentist may have several different recommendations to help with treatment of a TMJ disorder. These are typically things you can easily do to help fix the issue naturally:
- Limit jaw movements when possible
- Use a hot or cold compress on your jaw
- Eat softer foods
- Nightguard to reduce teeth grinding
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen
- Do exercises that will relax and stretch your jaw
- Don’t chew gum or your fingernails
If these at-home options don’t help and a patient is still experiencing TMD, the doctor may recommend muscle relaxers or prescription pain medication, braces to help fix an uneven bite, or shots of steroids and anti-inflammatory medicine into your jaw muscles to help ease the pain. There are also a number of dental procedures that can be performed to help treat the problem.
- Your doctor can use crowns or bridges to help reshape your bite.
- Arthrocentesis – to remove scar tissue caused by arthritis or inflammatory illness.
- Reshaping of teeth to help your mouth close evenly.
- Laser therapy – Infrared light is directed toward the joint and jaw tissues to help with pain
- Surgery – a doctor would open the joint to fix the issue, or possibly replace the joint.
At Midway Family and Cosmetic dentistry, we specialize in treating a variety of TMJ issues and can usually help patients overcome their issues without a more serious treatment option such as the ones listed above. If you believe you may be experiencing TMD, please contact our offices to schedule an exam. The sooner we can get to the root of the issue, the sooner you can get rid of any of the painful symptoms that you may have. Call our office at 678-393-1868 to schedule an appointment, or fill out the form below to let us help you book your appointment online.