Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, or TMJ syndrome, cause pain and poor function in the jaw joint and the muscles responsible for jaw movement. TMJ can be just a nuisance, or a potentially life-altering problem. When it’s less severe, crunching down on a hard bit of food can be painful through the jaw joint – unpleasant, but not serious. With severe cases, however, simple tasks like eating or talking can be difficult, or even debilitating.
Typically caused by injury to the joint, TMJ syndrome leads to pain with chewing; swelling on the sides of the face; nerve inflammation; headaches; tooth grinding; Eustachian tube dysfunction; and sometimes dislocation. While anyone can be subject to TMJ disorders, the condition appears to be more common in women ages 18-44 than in men.
This joint is located just in front of the ear, and pain associated with TMJ syndrome may involve the face, eye, forehead, ear, or neck. For most people, pain in the area of the jaw joint or muscles does not signal a severe problem. Discomfort from these conditions can be occasional and temporary, often related to stress and lifestyle. For others, however, symptoms can be a serious hindrance and need to be addressed in order to live a happier, pain free life.
Signs and symptoms of TMJ syndrome include the following:
- Pain in the jaw, especially at the area of the joint
- Popping/clicking of the jaw
- Ringing or popping sounds in the ears or a sense of fullness in the ears
- Blurred vision
- Tight, stiff, or sore jaw or neck muscles
- Locking or dislocation of the jaw (usually after widely yawning), referred to as lockjaw
- Dizziness or vertigo
The Delta Dental Plans Association says that in about 90 percent of the cases, your description of symptoms combined with a simple examination by your dentist provides useful information for diagnosing these disorders.
Your dentist may take x-rays and make a cast of your teeth to see how your bite fits together, or may request specialized x-rays for the TM joints. Your complete medical history may be reviewed as well, so it’s important to keep your dental office record up-to-date.
Your dentist will recommend what type of treatment is needed for your particular case, or you may be referred to an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist if we think the cause could be rooted in another area.
Some of the treatments that we may also recommend at Austin Premier Dental are as follows:
- Modifying the pain. This can mean applying moist heat to painful areas or taking medications prescribed by your dentist like muscle relaxants, analgesics, or anti-inflammatory medications.
- Practicing relaxation techniques. Biofeedback or relaxation training may help to manage stress. Your dentist may also prescribe a night guard to prevent your teeth from clenching or grinding during sleep.
- Fixing poorly aligned teeth. This could include some in-office adjustments or possibly a referral for orthodontic treatment to correct teeth alignment altogether.
- Scheduling surgery. In severe cases, dental surgery may be necessary. TMJ arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure usually done in an outpatient setting. Recovery time for this procedure is about a week.
While TMJ is hard to avoid in some circumstances, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research also recommends a “less is often best” approach in treating minor TMJ disorders, which includes:
- eating softer foods
- avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
- using dental splint appliances as recommended by Austin Premier Dental;
- while exercising, working, or participating in sports, using proper safety equipment to prevent jaw fractures and dislocations
At Austin Premier Dental, we are ready to handle TMJ with a selection of medications, non-pharmaceutical therapies, or if necessary, surgical or other procedures. If you have questions about TMJ disorders or think you might have it, call Dr. Silva and his team today at (512) 605-0680 to setup an examination!
(Source: MedicineNet & Delta Dental)