People from all over the world suffer from chronic pain and discomfort due to a disorder associated with the temporomandibular joint. Located between the upper and lower jaw, this joint can ultimately be the cause of headaches, jaw clicking or popping, problems opening and closing the mouth, and many other symptoms.
At The Paddington Dental Surgery, cosmetic dentist Dr. Duncan Copp and his team pride themselves on offering the highest standard of care possible. Our team of dentists is committed to providing patients with the latest techniques and procedures to successfully reduce the symptoms of TMJ disorder and diminish the effects it has on your day-to-day life.
- What Is TMJ Disorder?
- TMJ Disorder Causes
- TMJ Disorder Symptoms
- TMJ Disorder Side Effects
- TMJ Disorder Diagnosis
- Can TMJ Disorder Be Cured?
- TMJ Pain Relief at Home
- TMJ Disorder Treatment Options
- More Information About TMD
What Is TMJ Disorder?
The TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, is the hinge found on either side of the jaw that allows you to open and close your mouth. Although small, this joint is very important to performing many actions, including eating, drinking, and speaking. When this joint suffers from problems that affect its function, it is typically known as TMJ disorder (or TMD). Examples of issues that cause dysfunction include arthritis, misaligned bite (teeth don’t line up properly), and overuse.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
The temporomandibular joint helps the mobility of the jaw while you speak, yawn, bite, and chew. Disorders affecting the joint can ultimately be caused by:
- Imbalance among the jaws
- Teeth clenching or grinding
- A breakdown of cartilage in the joint
- Misaligned bite
- Simple overuse
What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorder can be responsible for a number of symptoms. Since many of the symptoms often seem unrelated to the jaw joint, people may not be aware they have TMJ disorder. Symptoms of the condition include:
- Facial pain
- Clicking or popping sensation in the jaw
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- Difficulty biting, chewing, and/or swallowing
- Ringing in the ears
- Numbness in the arms and/or fingers
What Are the Long-Term Side Effects of TMJ Disorder?
If TMJ disorder continues without treatment, several issues could arise. Some of the problems that could develop include arthritis of the jaw, injury, long-term teeth clenching or grinding (leading to wear and tear of the teeth and the need for restorative treatment), and disk erosion (there is a disk that sits within the jaw joint to cushion movement). Comfortable jaw movement is essential to your wellbeing, so if you notice any functional concerns or other symptoms, please let us know.
How Is TMJ Disorder Diagnosed?
Reviewing the range of motion of your jaw is one of the many ways we can detect a functional issue with the TMJ. We can also evaluate how the teeth come together, listen for any unusual noises coming from this area, and check for any tenderness. If necessary, X-rays or even a CT scan may be recommended to provide a more detailed image of the anatomical structures.
Can TMJ Disorder Be Cured?
Whether or not TMJ disorder can be cured will depend on the cause of the condition. In many cases, effective treatment can provide long-lasting relief, even in the event the underlying cause is not eliminated. For instance, arthritis has no cure, but the latest TMJ disorder techniques can help alleviate discomfort nonetheless. We will consider all factors when developing a course of action, particularly with regard to minimising the causes of this concern.
How Can I Treat TMJ Pain at Home?
Some things you can do on your own to treat TMJ disorder include reducing various tension-related habits. You can eat softer foods or cut your food into smaller pieces. We recommend you avoid very sticky or chewy foods and abstain from chewing gum. Jaw stretches and facial massage can also help to reduce muscle tension in this area and relieve soreness. Applying heat or ice can also be used to minimise aches and pain.
What Are My TMJ Disorder Treatment Options?
Treatment for TMJ disorder will depend on each patient’s individual needs. A number of therapies have been shown to alleviate symptoms and/or prevent further damage to the temporomandibular joint. Treatment options include:
- Nightguards and customised oral appliances
- Bite-realignment appliances
- Orthodontic treatment, such as Invisalign®
- Jaw and bite therapies
- Neuromuscular dentistry
- Restorative dental care
- Oral surgery
One of our experienced dentists can meet with you for an evaluation of your symptoms. If you are diagnosed with TMJ disorder, we can create a customised treatment plan designed to give you the most effective results possible.
More Information About TMJ Disorder
We want to help you make the best decision for your individual health needs and desired outcome. With that goal in mind, we have provided some answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about TMJ disorder and treatments. If you would like additional information, we encourage you to reach out to our friendly and experienced team.
How Long Does TMJ Disorder Last?
TMJ disorder can be a temporary or chronic problem, depending on the cause of your condition. For example, if you develop TMD due to an injury, your symptoms may resolve after a few weeks. However, if your TMD is a result of a cause like arthritis, teeth grinding, or a jaw imbalance, the pain and other symptoms you experience may last for several years. Treating the underlying cause of your TMJ disorder is the best way to achieve long-term management of your condition, if it does not go away on its own.
When Should I Seek a Professional for my TMJ Disorder?
If you are concerned about your TMJ symptoms or they are starting to affect your quality of life, you should be evaluated by a dental professional experienced in TMJ disorder. While some symptoms may be tolerable and not cause you concern, you should talk to your doctor if you experience problems such as:
- Limited ability to move your jaw
- Pain that does not go away
- Swelling develops near your TMJ
- Symptoms keep you up at night or make eating difficult
By seeking a professional and receiving a potential diagnosis, you can learn how to ease your symptoms and treat the cause of your TMJ disorder, helping prevent long-term side effects from occurring.
Why Does TMJ Disorder Cause Pain in Other Areas?
TMJ disorder is most often associated with pain in the head and jaw, but this discomfort can extend to other areas, as well, such as the neck, shoulders, and back. This results from the regular dysfunction of the TMJ, which leads to muscles in other areas having to work in an abnormal way.
Can Jaw Exercises Help Treat TMJ Disorder?
Jaw exercises and stretches can often help reduce TMJ pain, but these methods only provide temporary relief, as they do not treat the cause of the disorder. TMJ exercises may be done between flare-ups to help strengthen the joint. Jaw stretches may provide some pain relief when symptoms occur, helping reduce muscle and joint tension. While these activities can help many people, long-term resolution of TMJ disorder is typically only achieved through treatment from a dental professional.
What Foods Should I Eat to Ease TMJ Pain?
If you are experiencing a flare up of your TMJ disorder, adjusting your diet may help ease your pain. Switching to mostly soft foods that require minimal chewing, as well as avoiding hard, crunchy, or chewy foods can help provide TMJ relief. In addition, cutting food into small pieces and chewing with your back teeth (rather than biting into large items with your front teeth) can all help reduce the tension in your jaw.
For more information on TMJ disorder or if you’d like to schedule a consultation, please contact us today.