Treatments for TMJ disorders and jaw pain.
It’s believed that over 10 million Americans experience TMJ pain and have a case of TMD. Many cases of TMJ pain are left untreated either because the sufferer isn’t aware there is a problem with their jaw or because they haven’t yet seen a dentist skilled in recognizing and diagnosing TMDs.
If you believe you might have a TMJ disorder, here are the answers to what the condition is, why it happens, and how to get relief.
What is a TMJ disorder and what are the symptoms?
There is often a little confusion about the acronyms TMJ and TMD. After all, they are very similar and many people use them interchangeably, adding to the confusion. Here’s what they mean.
TMD stands for temporomandibular disorder, which is a disorder that impacts the joints and muscles within the jaw. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, the specific jaw joint where most of the stress and pain occurs. A TMJ disorder is a proper term for a TMD that specifically impacts the temporomandibular joint.
Many TMJ disorders cause these symptoms:
- Jaw pain and discomfort.
- Audible popping from the jaw while eating.
- Sensation of grinding in the jaw while eating.
- Teeth grinding (bruxism) or teeth gnashing.
- Pain in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
- Chronic headaches or migraines.
Sometimes a TMD will only present with some mild jaw pain while other more severe cases may be incredibly painful and even make speaking or eating difficult.
How does a dentist diagnose a TMJ disorder?
When it comes to healthcare professionals, a dentist is uniquely adept at being able to diagnose TMJ disorders or more complicated TMDs. In fact, sometimes a doctor may miss signs of a TMD while a skilled dentist like Dr. Staley can pick up on the signs right away! The reason for this is a dentist is already experienced in jaw and bite alignment, oral health, and a number of other factors that can impact temporomandibular joint health.
Dr. Staley will begin by performing an in-depth oral evaluation, including X-rays, and discuss the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Using digital X-rays and other images as needed, he’ll take a look at your TMJ and evaluate your bite alignment. In most cases of TMD, Dr. Staley will be able to diagnose the problem relatively quickly and begin developing a treatment plan.
Which treatments are available for TMJ pain?
Receiving treatment for any TMD is extremely important. Even if your pain doesn’t seem to be a big deal, TMDs don’t typically heal on their own. Instead, they tend to worsen over time, causing more pain and possibly even more damage to your jaw bone and your teeth.
There are a number of ways of treating temporomandibular joint pain, but many tend to focus just on relieving the pain rather than treating the underlying cause. This means that taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or using a hot compress can feel great, but it won’t stop the actual TMJ disorder. At Staley Dental, we provide treatments to get the pain under control as well as figure out the underlying cause.
Here are 3 treatment options that may be the solution to your TMJ pain.
1. Oral Appliances
Bruxism is a very common symptom of TMJ disorder. Unfortunately, it not only leads to oral pain and toothaches, but it can also physically damage your teeth. Oral appliances are a great way of stopping any damage from occurring or worsening, especially while you’re also being treated using other methods. Oral appliances generally involve a special mouthguard worn at night, which is usually when bruxism and gnashing occur most often.
2. Lifestyle Adjustments
Whether or not your TMJ disorder is environmental or physical, there are usually a handful of lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your symptoms. Finding healthy ways to cope with stress, temporarily eating a diet with softer foods, sleeping on your back, and sometimes a prescribed muscle relaxant can all help you relieve your temporomandibular joint pain.
3. Bite Realignment
If the cause of your TMJ pain is a bite alignment issue, the only way to solve the problem is to realign your bite. A dentist can help you do this by realigning your teeth through orthodontics and other forms of dental care.
In more extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to completely alleviate the jaw pain and stop the TMJ disorder once and for all.
How do I know which treatments are right for me?
Not every TMD case is the same or requires the exact same treatment plan. If your TMJ pain is stemming from a behavioral reaction, an oral appliance and lifestyle adjustments may be the solution. If your TMJ pain is because of a physical problem, bite realignment may be the only permanent solution. This is where your dentist is going to be able to best advise you.
Get control of your TMJ pain with a consultation at Staley Dental.
If you have TMJ pain, a great way to begin finding relief is with a consultation at Staley Dental. You’ll be able to learn about your TMD, what might have caused it, and begin developing a treatment plan to get rid of your pain permanently. You can schedule your appointment today by calling our Boise, ID office or using this online form.