TMJ Disorders (TMD)
TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to the jaw joint. The symptoms associated with TMJ dysfunction occur when the joints of the jaw and the muscles (muscles of mastication) do not work together in harmony or become damaged due to injury or over use. Some types of TMJ problems are more serious than others and can lead to additional problems; as such, early detection and treatment are important.
TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to chronic over use, 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, the results may include a misaligned bite, ear or joint pain, clicking, or grating noise when you open your mouth or trouble opening your mouth wide.
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 pain?
- 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?
- Do you often feel like you have an inner ear infection or your ear feels “fluid filled”?
The more times you answered “yes”, the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they are treated.
There are various treatment options that Dr. Spanganberg can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, Dr. Spanganberg will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach consisting of at home modifications combined with professional care.
The initial goals of treatment are to relieve the muscle and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a combination of therapy which include:
- Pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, or muscle relaxant.
- Fabrication of a night guard — Designed to minimize the pressure placed onto the joints
- Botox therapy — Designed to relax overstressed muscles related to the joint, and reduce headaches
- Arthrocentesis — A procedure that flushes out the affected joint and injects steroids directly into the joint to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Joint Surgery — While rare, there are cased that benefit from surgery
- Total Joint Replacement — In selected cases where the joint has degraded to the point that no other option is available
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 massage therapy, biofeedback or physical therapy may also be recommended.