Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ) is a disorder of the joint between the skull and the jaw. There are many different signs and symptoms that can overlap or exist singularly, making it challenging to diagnose. The cause can be varied as well, including genetics, arthritis, teeth grinding (bruxism), stress, an improper bite, or injury. When it comes to TMJ treatment services, a general practitioner or a dentist, who cares for all the bones of the jaw, including the lower and upper mandibular jaw and the teeth, can help diagnose and treat TMJ. The best way to recognize TMJ is to be familiar with the symptoms and signs that could potentially point to the disorder and lead to a diagnosis and treatment.
What is TMJ?
Any situation that causes pain of the TMJ or difficulty chewing and opening and closing of the jaw is considered a TMJ disorder. It often involves the tendons and ligaments of this specific joint or the disk between the bones being damaged or disintegrated. Though there are many ways that TMJ disorders can be diagnosed through signs and symptoms, there is usually no way to determine what specifically caused the pain. More than ten million people struggle with TMJ and the pain and discomfort that come with it.
Signs of TMJ
Without knowing the distinct cause of TMJ, there are numerous symptoms and signs of TMJ to pay attention to. Of course, the most noticeable signs of TMJ are pain and stiffness of the joint, but there are more subtle signs of TMJ. Some of them include:
- Tired muscles of the face
- Swelling on the side of the face
- Misalignment of the jaw
Methods of Diagnosis
Most often, TMJ can be diagnosed during a regular dental exam. Palpation of the area to test for tenderness, determine changes in the range of motion of the jaw, X-rays, cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT), and MRIs can all be used to feel and see changes in the jaw.
The most important factor in getting diagnosed is paying attention to these subtle changes in pain and discomfort. This way, the communication and expectations of treatment can be clear and explicit when managing pain and treating TMJ disorder.
Treatments of TMJ
Many may ask, “What is TMJ?” because it is such an indiscriminate term, but understanding the general nature of the disorder is the best way to create a quick-acting treatment plan with a dental professional. Depending on the cause, which can vary widely, many different types of treatments can be implemented to find ease from symptoms and even complete remission or cure.
If left untreated, TMJ disorders can cause severe and unpleasant side effects that can even more greatly impact someone’s life on a day-to-day basis. Some side effects include
- Bite Issues
- Tooth erosion
- Sleep apnea
Depending on the cause, such as acute trauma or genetics, there are many treatments to consider that can be applied daily, potentially without drastic choices like surgery. Some non-surgical treatment options for TMJ disorders to discuss with a dental professional:
- Hot and cold compresses
- Bettering posture
- Diet changes
- Over the counter pain medications
- Relaxation and stress management
If left untreated for extended periods of time or if symptoms are left unnoticed for long enough, surgery may be an option to consider for treatment. Surgeries such as arthrocentesis, the introduction of fluid through the joint to flush out debris and inflammation byproducts from the tissue, corticosteroid injections in the chewing muscles to relieve tension, TMJ arthroscopy, modified condylotomy works on the jaw bone rather than the joint itself, and finally, open-joint surgery, especially if the issue is structural.
Call Wambaugh Dental Today
With the potential complexity and inexact nature of TMJ, it’s important to discuss any concerns with pain or discomfort of the jaw and the associated overall loss of life satisfaction with a dental professional like those found at Wambaugh Dental. Make the call today to 281.501.7849 and schedule an exam to maintain tooth and jaw health.