Are you experiencing ongoing jaw pain?
Is it strangely difficult to close your mouth all the way?
Do you struggle or have trouble opening your mouth widely?
If you answered “yes” to one or all of these questions, you may have a temporomandibular disorder (TMD), a nerve-related condition that affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
You should be looking for a TMJ specialist. Luckily you found one of the best!
While there are a variety of potential causes for this fairly common health complication, when you have it, the only thing that really matters to you is getting it fixed. Rockville Dental Arts can help you address and resolve the issue.
We’ll get to the bottom of the problem through TMJ treatment, so you can get your jaw back to normal: functioning like it’s supposed to and — best of all — free from pain.
As with just about every physical health issue, though, the earlier you catch it, the more likely it is that your jaw muscles will get back their full range of motion once you go through the necessary treatment. We’ll do our very best to see to it that this happens.
What is TMJ disorder?
From TMJ disorder to temporomandibular joint syndrome to simply TMJ, this health condition is known by many different titles. While there are slight variations to each — TMJ is actually the medical name of your jaw joint — for our purposes, TMJ is essentially an umbrella term that is used to describe problems affecting the jaw muscles.
While the exact cause of TMJ isn’t known, it can manifest itself in a number of ways: It may develop over time as a result of ongoing clenching or grinding (also known as bruxism) of your teeth. But stress or arthritis, both of which can be hereditary, may also lead to TMJ.
According to the TMJ Association, it’s estimated that roughly 12% of Americans are impacted by temporomandibular joint disorders at some stage in their lives. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, however, stated the prevalence of temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder ranges between 5% to 12% of the U.S. population.
Temporomandibular disorders are seen more commonly in adults than in children, but kids may require TMJ treatment. Women are at a higher risk for TMD development than men. The reasons for this disparity are not fully understood.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of TMD?
As we mentioned earlier, the symptoms of TMD can be wide-ranging, but the main one is jaw pain, primarily in the lower jaw. The technical term for jaw pain is orofacial pain.
Here are a few other tell-tale symptoms, according to the Department of Health and Human Services:
- Limited movement of the jaw (e.g., you can’t close or open your mouth completely)
- Stiffness in jaw muscles
- Pain that can be felt throughout the neck and/or face
- Clicking sound while opening or closing the mouth
These are the main manifestations of TMD, but there are many others, including tension headaches, cerebral pain, sinus pressure, gum subsidence (recession of the gumline) and intense pain in the upper back.
Frequently, these symptoms may go away on their own, but if they’re ongoing, it’s very important to get them checked out by your dental health professional. Please don’t hesitate to call us at Rockville Dental Arts if these symptoms sound similar to what you’re going through.
The quicker you reach out, the faster we can get this issue addressed with the proper TMJ treatment. It may not be TMJ syndrome, but by scheduling a visit, we can get an idea of the nature of the problem and come up with a solution. This may involve coordinating with your primary care physician or consulting a specialist.
What are the treatments for TMD?
In many ways, the human body performs many of the same functions that machines do, not unlike the pushing and pulling actions of a pulley or the revving and idling of an engine.
The jaw works like a hinge does, opening and closing constantly as a result of talking, singing, chewing or chattering. Half the time you don’t even know you’re doing any of these actions because they’re so second-nature, similar to blinking.
Fortunately, the body is incredibly resilient, to the point where jaw-related pain can resolve itself on its own or through the implementation of certain conservative treatments. These may include relaxation techniques designed to reduce teeth clenching or grinding, muscle relaxants or short-term changes in your diet. It may be appropriate to eat only soft foods. Alternatively, physical therapy may be appropriate, which is another reason why TMJ treatment is often collaborative, meaning with other health professionals.
The only way to know for sure is by getting checked out. If TMJ disorder is the diagnosis, we use a variety of non-intrusive, non-invasive treatments. These may include anti-inflammatories to reduce the swelling, administration of muscle relaxants or a stabilization splint that’s fitted to the contours of your teeth.
Another potential TMJ treatment that is more involved requires the use of a Gelb machine. Named after Harold Gelb, who invented the appliance, this is a device that fits around the back of your teeth and is designed to reduce compression between the upper and lower rows and get the displaced jaw discs back into alignment. This is something that stays on the teeth for a specific period and is removed once the problem is resolved. That length can vary.
Ultimately, the treatment that we use at Rockville Dental Arts is customized to each patient. For some, it may be Botox injections; for others, it may be a bite guard. This latter device, which you wear at night, helps to minimize teeth grinding: It is something that many Americans wear — not because they have TMJ, but due to problems with sleep. At the same time, TMJ and certain sleep disorders are interrelated, particularly sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by labored breathing stemming from improper muscle contraction in the throat. It’s estimated that more than three-quarters of people with diagnosed sleep apnea also have TMJ.
Other co-existing conditions aside from sleep apnea include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and insomnia. These all can increase the risk of TMJ disorders as well.
What is the prognosis for TMJ syndrome?
The good news is that in the vast majority of cases, TMJ syndrome is fully recoverable.
Indeed, as the Department of Health and Human Services pointed out, the discomfort associated with TMJ can resolve itself. This is another reason why we at Rockville Dental Arts aim for conservative treatments as a starter, and then build from there if the initial treatment plan doesn’t pan out or is too conservative.
Again, the key is to properly diagnose the nature of the problem so we can set up a customized treatment plan that is catered to your ongoing symptoms.
We determine what is best for you by developing an understanding of how long you’ve dealt with symptoms, consulting with other health professionals (if necessary) and utilizing effective diagnostic instrumentation, be it a CT scan, X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging.
One thing you can be sure of is that we will leverage all available resources to get to the bottom of the problem so TMJ goes away.
When should you come in for TMJ treatment?
This is often the biggest issue that prevents patients from finding relief — they just don’t know when or if they should see a specialist. It all boils down to pain: If you’re feeling the above-mentioned symptoms and it’s been several days or weeks, please come and see us. By waiting any longer, the only thing you stand to gain is more pain.
In fact, when left untreated, the effects of TMJ can be irreversible. It’s possible that you may not have TMJ, but the best way to know for sure is by getting it checked out. In short, your best move is to err on the side of caution. If you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.
If you or someone you love is experiencing TMJ, don’t let them or yourself suffer another second longer.
Schedule an appointment with Rockville Dental Arts today.