Do you often suffer with pain in the jaw? A “clicking” noise when you open your mouth? If you answered yes, you may have a condition known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJ. TMJ occurs when the joints of the jaw and the muscles used for chewing don’t work together properly. Certain types of TMJ can lead to more serious problems. However, you’ll be glad to know this condition is easily detected and treatment is available.
While TMJ can’t be cured completely and may require several treatments from Dr. Nguyen, we can help you succeed on the path to a healthier less painful jaw.
Trouble with your jaw?
There are several factors that determine if you’re at risk for developing TMJ. Some of the most common are teeth grinding, tightening of the jaw muscles, and teeth clenching. Jaw injury and/or jaw disease such as arthritis, which can stretch and tear ligaments, may also contribute to the development of TMJ. Whatever the cause, the results can include pain, misaligned bite, and clicking. These symptoms are usually caused by the disk or the cartilage cushion slipping out of position when the mouth is opened.
Do you have a TMJ disorder?
- Do you actively grind or clench your teeth?
- Do you typically wake with stiff or sore jaw muscles?
- Do you suffer from frequent headaches or neck problems?
- Do you have sharp pains while clenching teeth?
- Does your jaw click, pop, catch or lock when opening your mouth?
- Is it difficult to open your mouth, to eat, to yawn?
- Have you ever had an injury to the neck, head or jaws?
- Do you have teeth that no longer touch?
- Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear?
- Are your teeth sensitive, broken, loose or worn?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, it’s likely you might be a victim of TMJ. Understanding this disorder is the key to understanding the many treatments and how they can help you.
Treatment Options for TMJ
Dr. Tam Nguyen can implement various treatment options to utilize the synchronization and functions of your jaw. The first step to managing this disorder is an evaluation which will determine proper diagnosis of TMJ. Upon confirmation the doctors will map out the proper course for treatment. Studies show the most effective approach is a combination of self care teamed with professional care.
Initially the focus is on relieving the muscle spasm and joint pain. Typically this is done with the use of pain relievers, anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxants. Additional caring for your jaw at home may also be effective. It can include the following:
- Rest your jaw
- Keep your teeth from touching when not swallowing or eating
- Avoid tough or hard foods
- Apply ice or heat
- Exercise your jaw muscles
Stress therapy and physical therapy are often recommended. Additionally there are a variety of mouth appliances available. A splint can relax the muscles and reduce pain by keeping the teeth from touching. This is achieved by placing a clear plastic “tray” over either top or bottom teeth. Night guards also help to protect the cartilage and the joint from further damage. The anterior positioning apparatus relieves pressure and aids in disk re-positioning by moving your jaw forward. Some of these devices may be worn 24 hrs/day to aid in healing or just at night for proper positioning of the jaw.
What about bite corrective surgery?
Some cases of TMJ may require corrective surgery such as arthroscopy and open joint repair. While those may be reserved for more severe cases other treatments include bite adjustment, orthodontics, or restorative dental work. Dr. Tam Nguyen will refer you to an oral surgeon if necessary.