TMJ Disorders

What are TMJ Disorders?

Pain and discomfort in the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) can happen to anyone and at any time. Symptoms can either arise after a traumatic event to the jaws or its joints such as falling or a sports injury, or it can be due to long-standing issues such as clenching and grinding of the teeth.

TMJ dysfunction has a variety of causes and symptoms. Often, a TMJ problem creates achy, sore, and painful jaws. However, issues with the TMJ and its surrounding structures can also be masked as headaches, sinus pain, sensitivity of back teeth, and even earaches. This is because the ligaments, nerves, and muscles around the TMJ are all interconnected. 

In some cases, the symptoms of TMJ disorders may go away without treatment. This may be because the TMJ and its surrounding structures have healed. But more commonly, a chronic TMJ issue that suddenly goes away indicates your body has adapted to the joint dysfunction by hardening of associated tissues. 

Causes of TMJ Disorders

There can be many causes of TMJ pain. Your risk of developing this disorder rises if you have a lot of stress or are extremely sensitive to pain. The most common causes of TMJ and TMD include:

  • Bruxism (grinding): Some people grind or clench their teeth at night while they are sleeping. Due to this involuntary activity, it puts an enormous amount of pressure on the joint, resulting in inflammation.
  • Arthritis of the temporomandibular joint
  • Displacement or dislocation of the disk: The TMJ or articular disk lies between the jawbone (mandible) and the socket that can become displaced, dislocated or damaged, causing damage and pain.
  • Trauma: An injury to any part of the jaw can cause pain in the joint.
  • Stress: Painful spasms and trouble moving the jaw are sometimes the result of stress.
  • Poor Posture: With poor posture such as not standing straight or being hunched over a computer, it strains the neck and jaw.
  • Bad Teeth: Results in uneven chewing, putting stress on the jawline

TMJ Treatment

Treatment for TMJ pain is typically only recommended for people whose symptoms affect their daily lives. If you are having difficulty opening your mouth, have jaw pain when closing or opening your mouth, have chronic headaches, or any of the other symptoms we’ve mentioned, we may be able to help.  

At Sloan Creek Dental, we offer a comprehensive TMJ evaluation to determine the root cause of the pain and discomfort you are experiencing. Based on what we find during the exam, we will recommend one or more treatment options for the management of your pain. The options may include oral splints, physical therapy, medications, and others. Keep reading to find out more about each of these options.

  • Oral splints: Splints are essentially mouth guards worn over either your upper or lower teeth to create more favorable positioning of the jaw joints.  For TMJ pain that results from a traumatic event, a special temporary splint to help even out your bite while your joints are healing is often all that is needed. Other times, a permanent splint that is worn for a longer period of time during the day and/or night may be necessary to alleviate your symptoms.
  • Physical therapy:  Sometimes the source of TMJ discomfort can be from one or more muscles of the head and neck region. If so, warm and/or cold compresses and special exercises that stretch and strengthen muscles may help. During your TMJ exam, we will determine if your muscles are the issue and come up with customized therapies for you to implement.
  • Medications:  Prescription and over-the-counter medications may help especially for people whose TMJ issues have just begun. Different medications that may be indicated include steroids, anti-inflammatories, and anesthetics depending on your particular situation and diagnosis.