If you have a temporomandibular joint disorder, often called TMJ, you may know the feel of the inflammation and pain it can cause. It often causes clicking when you use your temporomandibular joint. You may have trouble opening and closing your jaw or other painful issues that are caused by a problem with the joint. You can get it at both of the joints in your jaw or just one.
When you have a TMJ disorder, your jaw and the muscles you use to chew aren’t working together properly. This can cause a lot of trouble with chewing, talking, etc. If you have this disorder, it’s important to know what it is and how it may be treated. A lot of progress has been made in recent years for treating these disorders, so if you had it before and failed to find treatment, it’s worth seeking treatment this time. You could get a joint that is more functional and comfortable.
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
There are many ways that TMJ problems can be caused. Often they are caused by habits like grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. Many people grind their teeth in their sleep, causing TMJ disorders. They can also be caused by injuries that affect the jaw as well as arthritis. Both of these causes can tear or stretch the muscle ligaments at the joint. When this happens, the cartilage disk that serves as the joint’s cushion can get out of place. This can cause a lot of problems when you then use the joint.
You may end up with pain in the joint, a bite that is misaligned, problems when trying to open your mouth widely and noises like grating or clicking.
Treatments for TMJ Disorders
Surgery is generally not the first line of treatment for TMJ disorders. There are a number of other remedies that are often tried first. Oral surgery for TMJ disorders is often the last line of treatment tried. However, there are also cases in which oral surgery is needed without trying other treatments. In cases where the jaw has become misaligned, surgery is often needed to get the teeth together again for effective chewing.
After you have been diagnosed with a TMJ disorder, a treatment plan can be made for your condition. There is rarely one thing that will work completely, so your treatment plan may include different treatments together to help your joints to work and feel better. Using some self-care techniques and some dental treatment techniques is a good way to approach the problem.
If the main cause of your disorder is grinding your teeth at night, also known as bruxism, you may need to have a night guard made. These are hard plastic guards that are worn over your teeth at night to keep you from being able to grind them. This can help with many cases of TMJ disorders, though it may also require time and self-care in order to see its full benefit.
Anxiety is a big cause of both teeth grinding and TMJ disorders. Taking steps to stay calmer throughout the day can help you not to clinch the muscles around the joint and may result in less teeth grinding at night.
There are also medications that can be taken to help with the pain and inflammation of the temporomandibular joint. These may include over-the-counter pain medications, muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory medications or injections into the joints. Getting Botox injected into the chewing muscles can help them to relax and become better positioned. There are also steroid injections into the joint that can help with both the inflammation and the pain. These can work wonders for patients who have been in pain.
For self-care techniques, there are a number of ways to try to ease your TMJ disorder at home. You can make an effort to rest your jaw when it’s possible to do so. You can also eat softer foods and keep your teeth apart unless you are eating or swallowing. You may find that applying heat or ice to the joint helps it to relax and be less painful. Some people find that doing yoga helps with their stress, and this helps with their muscles.
Believe it or not, even having better posture can help with your TMJ. If you normally have poor posture, this can strain a number of muscles, and that includes facial muscles. Practice standing and sitting so that your back and neck are straighter.
If you have tried a number of other treatments but have found little relief, you may need to move to oral surgery. If your TMJ has made your teeth no longer fit together, surgery can often help. Surgery for the TMJ disorder itself is usually limited to cases where the patient can’t open their jaw, the jaw has become dislocated or there has been a lot of degeneration of the joint.
If you have a TMJ disorder, it’s important to remember that there are multiple ways that it can be made to feel better. Between your self-care and your dental care, you can generally expect the condition to get better.
If you’d like to schedule an appointment, contact DFW Oral Surgeons today!