TMJ Disorder and Treatment
Serving Portland and Hawthorne
The temporomandibular joints connect the lower jaw to the skull. The TM joints allow you to talk, chew, yawn and eat. These extremely diligent joints can become compromised for a variety of reasons, which can cause challenges in functioning as well as extreme discomfort. Issues with the functioning of the TM joints are commonly called TMJ disorders, or TMD.
What is TMJ Disorder?
When the TM joint is out of place, or the muscles don’t move as they should, TMD can result. Before treatment options are examined, proper diagnosis of the TMD is needed. TMJ joints are complex, and symptoms of a TMJ disorder could actually be due to a different ailment. It is prudent that a careful diagnosis from a seasoned professional takes place to ensure the solution will effectively treat the problem. A thorough diagnosis of a TMJ disorder will commonly include ultrasounds, x-rays, and motion performance analysis.
Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder
Those who suffer from TMD often endure a variety of symptoms. Typical TMJ disorder symptoms include:
- Intense and reoccurring headaches
- Difficulties chewing and talking
- Pain in the jaw
- Sinus pressure
- Constrained range of motion in the jaw
- Unusually noises emitted from the jaw
What causes TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorders can manifest from a variety of different causes, and it’s not always clear what the initial cause or injury was. Car accidents, injuries to the head or face area, genetics, teeth grinding at night, and arthritis have all been known to contribute to the development of TMJ issues. When the teeth are improperly aligned, or the muscles surrounding the jaw are tense, TMJ can develop and then progressivley get worse. Stress also tends to exacerbate TMJ disorders, due to involuntary clenching or teeth grinding.
Once an official diagnosis has been made by a TMJ specialist, treatment options for a TMJ disorder can be pursued. Treatment for TMJ disorders needs to be tailored to the specific needs of each individual. What works for one person, may not work for the next. Options for treatment include:
- Splints: Custom designed orthotics, such as TMJ mouthguards, used to put the jaw back in place, prevent teeth grinding, and provide stability.
- Physical therapy: This is a proven treatment that effectively decreases pain associated with a TMJ disorder, alleviates inflammation, and fosters healing of the jaw.
- Medication: Depending on the symptoms you are dealing with, there may be a medication that can help promote healing.
- Dietary Plan: Changing your diet may be necessary to assist the treatment process, as softer foods will irritate the jaw less.
Because TMD is complex, it’s not always possible to treat the disorder with one change or even a physical device. Once TMD has developed, the surrounding muscles will be affected as well, and treatment can sometimes be a long process involving many solutions.
Handling TMJ Pain and Discomfort
Depending on how the TMJ has resulted, and what treatment options are possible, dealing with TMJ pain can be possible in a number of ways. A TMJ specialist will typically advise the following pain treatment options:
- Ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain relievers
- Hot or cold compresses
- Jaw exercises to strengthen or loosen the surrounding joint and muscles
- Limiting jaw movement can also help minimize the pain or discomfort from TMJ
Talk to a TMJ Specialist
If you are feeling consistent or grinding jaw pain, you may need to see a TMJ specialist. Your dentist can advise you on a TMJ specialist or services, and can help you to determine the next course of action. There are ways to treat or manage TMD, and talking to your dental professional is the first step towards healing TMJ disorders.