If your jaw has been sounding like popcorn every time you open and close your mouth, your jaw locks when you yawn or open or close your mouth, and you have been struggling with a headache that radiates up to your ear and down to your shoulder, then there is a good chance that you are suffering from a disorder in your temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Your TMJ is the small little joint in your jaw, which acts as a hinge that connects your jaw to the rest of your head. When it works fine, most people pay little attention to it. However, the moment it starts to act up, it may be all that you think about. We here at Carolina Smiles Family Dentistry understand how miserable TMJ dysfunction is and can help restore your quality of life if you have this common disorder.
What is TMJ Dysfunction?
TMJ dysfunction affects the lives of over 10 million Americans, leading to pain and tenderness in the joint. It occurs when the temporomandibular joint becomes inflamed, which can occur for some reasons. Common triggers for TMJ disorder include injury or trauma to the joint (causing it to be knocked out of alignment), erosion of the joint itself, and types of arthritis (including rheumatoid or osteoarthritis) that can affect the cartilage in the joint. Patients who clench or grind their teeth, particularly at night, are also prone to TMJ dysfunction.
While some patients may find that their TMJ disorder goes away on its own, it often needs medical intervention. That is where we step in. During your appointment with us, we will thoroughly assess your mouth and jaw to look for any signs of problems with your TMJ. We will first start with a medical history to determine if you have any conditions that may have led to TMJ disorder. Next, we will examine your mouth and jaw. We will also gently press against your TMJ to determine if you have any tenderness. We may also ask you to open and close your mouth to listen for any of the telltale pops or clicks associated with it.
How to Treat TMJ Disorder
There are many different treatment options available to patients with TMJ dysfunction. Depending on the severity of it, we may recommend lifestyle changes, such as stopping chewing gum. Physical therapy can also be beneficial, which will include exercises that can help strengthen the jaw.
Some patients may benefit from an occlusive device, such as a nighttime mouth guard. This can help prevent pain from bruxism (grinding and clenching your teeth). We may recommend medication alongside these other therapies, as well. Some patients benefit from anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants, and in some cases, certain types of tricyclic antidepressants are helpful.
Patients whose TMJ disorder is resistant to non-surgical options may require surgery to treat their TMJ dysfunction. We will discuss all of your options with you during your consultation for TMJ disorder.
If you suspect that you suffer from a TMJ dysfunction, or you would like to set up an appointment with us here at Carolina Smiles Family Dentistry, please give us a call today at (803) 310-4707!