TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint.  TMJ disorders are a family of problems related to  the jaw joint and includes symptoms like pain or a “clicking” sound. These problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. These symptoms occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles do not work together correctly. TMJ is the name for each joint on the right and left side that connects the jaw to the skull. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important.

No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and treatment takes time to become effective. Dr. Crago, Dr. Chahal, Dr. Deatherage, Dr. Gray, Dr. Gomez, Dr. Knoll and Dr. Miller can help  patients have a healthier, more comfortable jaw.

Trouble With Your Jaw?

TMJ disorders develop for many reasons, including clenching or grinding of the teeth, tightening of the jaw muscles, and stressing the TMJ joint. A damaged jaw joint could also be due to injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, or grating noise when opening the mouth, or trouble opening thr mouth wide.

Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?

  • Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
  • Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
  • Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
  • Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
  • Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
  • Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
  • Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat, or yawn?
  • Have you ever injured your neck, head, or jaws?
  • Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
  • Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
  • Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
  • Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
  • Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?

The more times a patient  answered “yes” to these questions, the more likely it is that they have TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help patients understand how they are treated.

Treatment

There are various treatment options that Drs. Crago, Chahal, Deatherage, Gray, Gomez, Knoll or Miller can utilize to improve the harmony and function of the jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, the oral surgeon will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care combined with professional care.

The initial goals are to relieve the muscle spasms and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, or muscle relaxant. Steroids can be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:

  • Resting the jaw
  • Keeping the teeth apart when not swallowing or eating
  • Eating soft foods
  • Applying ice and heat
  • Exercising the jaw
  • Practicing good posture

Stress management techniques such as biofeedback or physical therapy may also be recommended, as well as a temporary, clear plastic appliance known as a splint. A splint, or nightguard, fits over the top or bottom teeth and helps keep the teeth apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A nightguard helps patients stop clenching or grinding their teeth and reduces muscle tension at night. It also helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. An orthotic stabilization appliance is worn 24 hours/day, or just at night, to move the jaw into proper position. Appliances also help protect tooth wear.

What About Bite Correction or Surgery?

A patient’s TMJ disorder has caused problems with how their teeth fit together, they may need treatment such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction, or restorative dental work. Surgical options, such as arthroscopy and open joint repair, are sometimes needed, but are reserved for severe cases. Drs. Crago, Chahal, Deatherage, Gray, Gomez, Knoll and Miller do not consider TMJ surgery unless the jaw can’t open, is dislocated and non-reducible, has severe degeneration, or the patient has undergone conservative treatment unsuccessfully.