TMJ is the initialism for temporomandibular joint, which connects your lower jaw (the mandible) to your skull at the temporal bone. This joint controls many jaw functions, like chewing. If the chewing muscles or the joint itself are causing you pain you may have temporamandibular disorder, or TMD. TMD can be caused by stress, continual clenching of the jaw muscles, or teeth grinding.
Some of the symptoms of TMD are:
Many of these symptoms can often be associated with other health problems, so only a medical professional can tell you if it is due to TMD. Teeth grinding is an especially problematic symptom because it can lead to further problems. Prolonged teeth grinding, or bruxism, can cause enamel to wear off teeth and expose dentin. This material is softer than enamel and more susceptible to decay. Sensitivity to hot and cold food or drink may also develop from excessive teeth grinding.
Dentists diagnose TMJ through a combination of diagnostic imaging and physical examination; the movement of the jaw and the bite will be evaluated and compared with X-rays, CT scan or MRI images.
There are several treatments for TMJ that can be performed at home. Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can alleviate pain and promote muscle relaxation; alternating heat and ice to the affected area can also be helpful. Eating soft foods during "flare-ups" helps to give the jaw a much-needed rest. Holding the mouth properly - teeth slightly apart - relieves unnecessary pressure. Stress-relief therapy like yoga or massage may also help the patient achieve a more relaxed overall state.
If more conservative methods fail to bring relief, treatments like laser or TENS therapy may be necessary. In severe cases, surgery to repair the joint tissue or bones may be the most effective option.
If you suspect you may have TMD come in for a consultation. We can help diagnose you and provide relief for your symptoms. Pain relievers and hot/cold compresses are short term methods to provide relief for pain symptoms. A night guard can be used to help prevent or lessen the effects of teeth grinding at night. This can lead to a more permanent solution. In very severe cases of TMD surgery may be required, but behavioral treatments to change the way you use your jaw muscles are usually enough to provide relief.
Are you experiencing any of the above symptoms related to TMJ?
Call our Fairfax, VA office at (703) 877-0990 to schedule your consultation today!