TMJ Pain and Diagnosis
TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your jaw joint.
If you have had symptoms such as pain, or a “clicking” sound, you’ll be glad to know these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past.
These symptoms occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles do not work together correctly. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the name for each joint (right and left) that connects the jaw to your skull. Because 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 treatment takes time to become effective. Dr. Betts, Dr. Wasielewski, Dr. Bartling and Dr. Cannavo can help you to have a healthier, more comfortable jaw. For more information, or to schedule a consult, please choose an option:
Trouble with your jaw?
TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, something that tightens your jaw muscles and stresses your TM joint. It is also possible to have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly, or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, trouble opening the mouth, or a grating noise when opening the 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 when you open your mouth?
- 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?
There are various treatment options for TMJ that Drs. Betts, Wasielewski, Bartling and Cannavo can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, Drs. Betts, Wasielewski, Bartling and Cannavo will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care combined 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. Steroids can be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. 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 ice and 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 night guard) fits over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep them apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for varying purposes. A night guard helps you stop clenching or grinding your teeth and reduces muscle tension at night. It also helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relieves pressure on parts of your jaw, and aids in disk repositioning. It may be worn 24 hours/day to help your jaw heal. An orthotic stabilization appliance can be worn 24 hours per day, or just at night, to move your jaw into proper position. Appliances also help protect tooth wear.
What about bite correction or surgery?
If a 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 arthroscopy and open joint repair restructuring are sometimes needed, but are reserved for severe cases. Drs. Betts, Wasielewski, Bartling and Cannavo do not consider TMJ surgery unless the jaw can’t open, is dislocated and non-reducible, has severe degeneration, or the patient has undergone appliance treatment unsuccessfully.