TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint. That is the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull on each side. Temporomandibular Disorder, or TMD, refers to issues affecting the TMJ and the muscles and soft tissues that surround it. Common TMD symptoms include:
- Jaw pain
- Clicking jaw joint
- Jaw stiffness
- Stuck jaw, open or closed
- Clenching or grinding teeth
- Pain in cheeks and temples
Causes of TMD
There are a number of issues that can cause TMD. The most common is subconscious clenching or grinding of the teeth. This usually occurs during sleep or when under high amounts of stress. Patients with this type of TMD may find that their symptoms vary depending on their level of stress.
Other causes of TMD can include:
- Jaw joint disc out of place
- Osteoarthritis damage to joint
- Swelling inside the joint
- Poor posture muscle strain
- Joint inflammation or strain
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?
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. During your visit, our team will take a detailed dental and medical history. Tell us about any symptoms or injuries to the TMJ area. Be sure to notify us of any chronic illnesses or medications you are taking.
Next, Drs. Korompilas, Bouchelion, and Guyer will perform a comprehensive exam of your head and neck. We will pay particular attention to the jaw muscles and joints. We may recommend a screening X-ray to rule out other issues. At this point, we can recommend an initial treatment plan in most cases.
There are various treatment options that Louis Korompilas, DDS, Bryan Bouchelion, DDS, or Lance Guyer, DDS, can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, Drs. Korompilas, Bouchelion, and Guyer will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care joined with professional care.
The initial goals are to relieve the muscle spasm 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 your teeth apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A night guard helps you stop clenching or grinding your teeth and reduces muscle tension at night and helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relives 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 is worn 24 hours/day or just at night to move your jaw into proper position. Appliances also help to protect from tooth wear.
What about Bite Correction or Surgery?
If your 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. Korompilas, Bouchelion, and Guyer do not consider TMJ surgery unless the jaw can’t open, is dislocated and nonreducible, has severe degeneration, or the patient has undergone appliance treatment unsuccessfully.
If you have experienced symptoms that may be TMJ/TMD, contact Chicago Dental Implants, Oral & Facial Surgery for a consultation.