What You Need to Know About TMJ Disorder

Feb 14th, 2018 | By | Category: Blog

woman pressing tmj indicating jaw painThe temporomandibular joints, or the TMJs, are the joints in front of the ears, on both sides of the head. The TMJ joints connect to the skull and enable movement for speaking, chewing, and yawning. TMJ disorder occurs when something irritates or damages the joint and the surrounding nerves and soft tissues.

TMJ disorder symptoms include:

  • Tightness or pain in the jaw, face, neck, or shoulders
  • Popping and clicking of the jaw when chewing
  • Teeth grinding (usually occurs at night)
  • Swelling on the sides of the face
  • Feeling as if the lower jaw is out of place
  • Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
  • Cracked, chipped, or crazed (spiderweb cracked) teeth
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Earaches and/or tinnitus (ringing of the ears)
  • Tingling extremities (fingers, toes)

People who experience these symptoms should consult with a TMJ dentist to determine the cause of this pain and whether it is due to TMJ disorder. Call Fresno Dental Studio to speak with Dr. Denes and to discuss your symptoms.

Causes of TMJ Disorder

The following can cause symptoms of TMJ disorder:

  • Tension in the head or neck caused by stress
  • Oral issues that affect the occlusion, or bite, as an uneven biting surface stresses the jaw joints
  • Jaw injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Bruxism, or chronic teeth clenching or grinding

Bruxism and TMJ disorder are sometimes related and one can negatively impact the other. Note that TMJ disorder involves issues with the joint, while bruxism directly involves clenching or grinding the teeth.

Diagnosing TMJ Disorder

Toothaches or sinus problems can cause symptoms that occur with TMJ disorder, and the dentist will want to rule these out before proceeding with treatment. To diagnose TMJ disorder, Dr. Denes reviews the patient’s medical history and examines the teeth and jaw joints, listening for sounds like popping, clicking, and grinding. Manual manipulation of the joint will also provide insight into the patient’s condition. It involves the dentist touching and applying slight pressure to the outside of the face, over the TMJs. Dr. Denes might also need to take a scan or x-ray of the patient’s jaw for accurate diagnosis.

Treating TMJ Disorder

Dr. Denes will likely recommend some of the following treatments to help alleviate pain caused by TMJ disorder. Treatments vary depending on the cause.

Stress-induced TMJ

If stress causes a patient’s TMJ disorder symptoms, stress-relief practices may reduce or alleviate symptoms. To reduce stress, suggestions may include practicing meditation, listening to instrumental music, or spending time alone in nature. Vigorous activity, like sports and exercise can also reduce stress.

Occlusion-Based TMJ

If occlusion issues cause TMJ disorder, dental treatments such as porcelain veneers, bridges, crowns, or braces can restore occlusion to alleviate jaw pain or discomfort.

Bruxism-Based TMJ

If bruxism, which is long-term, chronic teeth grinding, causes symptoms of TMJ disorder, it can be treated with a mouth guard that creates a barrier between the upper and lower teeth.

Most Types of TMJ

A special mouth guard, also called a splint or bite guard, can be prescribed to alleviate bruxism and TMJ pain. Made of acrylic, a TMJ mouth guard will hold the jaw joints in a comfortable resting position while you sleep, so your jaw muscles and nerves can relax. Some patients’ jaws and muscles can reprogram over time, with a TMJ mouth guard. However, most use the appliance indefinitely or until a permanent solution, such as re-equilibration with restorative dentistry, is implemented.

In some cases, surgery is the best treatment option for severe TMJ disorder. If Dr. Denes believes you may need surgery, he will refer you to a trusted oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

Call Us Today for a TMJ Analysis

No one should have to deal with persistent pain or discomfort. If you have questions about TMJ, jaw pain, or want to meet with a dentist, contact Fresno Dental Studio in Fresno, CA, where Drs. Claudia and Alex Denes can help you determine what is causing your TMJ disorder symptoms.

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