TMJ Disorders

TMJ Disorders pict

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint which connects your lower jaw to your skull. TMJ disorders are a group of problems related to the joints themselves, the muscles that move the joint and the teeth. Symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:

  • popping or clicking of the joints
  • crunching noise in the joint
  • facial pain or frequent headaches
  • stiffness of the muscles around your jaw
  • locking of the jaw
  • limited opening of the mouth
  • clenching or grinding of your teeth
  • teeth occasionally meeting together differently

These symptoms generally surface when the joints and the muscles do not work in harmony, and are caused by a variety of problems (e.g., malocclusion, stress, trauma, etc.)

TMJ disorders are a very complex group of problems. No one treatment can resolve these disorders, and most commonly treatment requires time to be effective. Many times treatment is multi-disciplinary, in that it may require the involvement of multiple providers to give you the optimal results. It cannot be emphasized enough, treatment always works most effectively when you combine home care with professional care.

A variety of treatments are available for TMJ disorders. After an evaluation, a diagnosis will determine the most appropriate course. In most instances, the initial treatment goals are to relax the muscles and control the joint pain, commonly referred to conservative or non-surgical management. These include anti-inflammatory medications, steroids, or muscle relaxants. These medical treatments are always combined with some form of home care. Home care includes:

  • resting your jaw
  • eating a soft diet
  • applying warm and cold compresses
  • stretching your jaw
  • avoiding gum chewing or chewy foods
  • avoiding hard foods such as candy, nuts, and ice

As an additional form of treatment, physical therapy may be prescribed during the non-surgical phase of treatment. Moreover, your dentist may be asked to make a plastic appliance to be worn at night and/or during the day, sometimes called a splint or nightguard. Your dentist may also recommend an adjustment of your occlusion (bite) and even may recommend orthodontics.

The surgical phase of TMJ disorder treatment is only considered an option if: 1) the non-surgical phase has failed to provide relief; 2) if you continue to have difficulty opening your mouth; 3) if the joint is dislocated; or 4) if the joint has severe degeneration. Surgical options include:

  • TMJ arthrocentesis
  • TMJ arthroscopy
  • Condylotomy
  • open TMJ arthroplasty
  • total joint replacement

We will discuss all of your surgical options, explain the pros and cons of each treatment and recommend the most appropriate treatment for your specific problem.