If you’ve had persistent pain or discomfort in your jaw joint, or have a painful earache that seems worse than normal, don’t just assume it’s nothing- you might have something known as temporomandibular joint disorder. Commonly referred to as TMJ Disorders, or simply called “TMJ”, these disorders cause pain and discomfort in the jaw and can be diagnosed by your dentist.
The temporomandibular joint is the hinge-like joint that operates the jaw, allowing it to move up and down and left and right. Sometimes the joint and/or muscles supporting the joint become inflamed and painful symptoms can result. TMJ disorders encompass a variety of conditions varying in degree of pain and severity, and to avoid continuing discomfort, it is vital to have them diagnosed as quickly as possible.
If you’re wondering whether or not your jaw joint pain is caused by temporomandibular disorder, have a read through our guide on TMJ disorders. If the descriptions below fit your symptoms, don’t hesitate to call us and make an appointment to be advised further on your treatment options.
Causes of TMJ
Frustratingly, a variety of independent causes can contribute to the development of TMJ disorders. When the joint moves out of alignment, it can lead to pain when moving the jaw. Pain in the TMJ area could be caused by habits such as unintentional clenching and/or grinding, physical impact and trauma to the jaw, erosion due to arthritis, or even stress and other psychological disorders.
It’s a good idea to be aware of the symptoms of TMJ disorders so you can be aware of when your TMJ pain is potentially more serious than routine aches and pains, and inform your dentist of your concerns. These are the following main symptoms associated with TMJ:
- Jaw pain, sensitivity and tenderness
- Earache, headache or migraine
- Increased pain while eating
- A “clicking” sound when you move your jaw
- Increased difficulty in opening or closing your mouth
If you experience one or more of the following, don’t hesitate to contact us for an appointment- we can see if you’re suffering from TMJ Disorders. Be particularly careful about any earache pains- due to the way our bodies perceive pain, it is easy to confuse a routine earache with an underlying TMJ disorder.
When To See A Dentist
TMJ Disorders can be diagnosed and treated by a dentist or oral surgeon. It’s a good idea to contact your health professional if:
- You are unable to open or close your mouth without pain
- There is a marked change in how much pain you feel in your jaw
- Your jaw feels particularly tender and sensitive when moving side to side or up and down
- There is a distinct pain in the front of your ears
- The muscles in the jaw area are tender and sore
Seeing a specialist will allow you to receive a quick diagnosis, alert you to possible causes, and inform you on treatment options. If you come to our practice with symptoms of TMJ disorders, your jaw will be examined and we will assess your jaw movement and make note of the range of motion in your jaw, any clicking, and ask you to assess the pain levels and sensitivity of such movements. In some cases, it may be necessary to do an X-Ray or CT scan of the affected area.
If you’re worried that you might have developed a TMJ Disorder, it’s a good idea to be aware of the factors that could potentially put you at risk.
The common risk factors of TMJ disorders are:
- Underlying conditions such as arthritis
- Chronic grinding/clenching of the teeth
- Regular activities at risk for jaw injury, e.g. contact sports
- Infections or autoimmune conditions
If you’re worried that you may be at risk for TMJ disorders, talk to your dentist about preventative measures you can take. There are a number of steps you can take on your own to lessen your risks of developing TMJ disorders in the future- and save you on medical treatment.
Treatment for TMJ Disorders
Your dentist may recommend a few different options, such as TMJ Splint therapy, trigger point therapy, and even Botox in consistently tight muscles. The goals of splint therapy are to eliminate TMJ and muscle pain, to improve jaw function, and to recapture the displaced disc. Some patients may be referred to a physical therapist to help accelerate therapy results.
To help treat the pain, your dentist may prescribe a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, or even muscle relaxant to help ease the pain associated with TMJ disorders. You may also be instructed on relaxation techniques to help prevent teeth grinding at night, or be recommended a particular diet in order to lower aggravating factors that can lead to TMJ disorders. Gentle head and neck massage may also be recommended, as gently stretching the surrounding joints and muscles can be effective in relieving the pain associated with TMJ disorders.
For more serious cases of pain and limited movement due to TMJ disorders, surgical intervention may be ordered, but we would recommend possible splint therapy in order to decrease the need for surgery in the future.
Here at Christopher Cooley, DDS, we are extremely pleased to recommend Dr. Diane Flexsenhar to treat your TMJ disorder. Dr. Flexsenhar is highly qualified and can provide you with effective treatment and answers to all of your questions about TMJ disorders.
If you would like to learn more about your treatment options for TMJ Disorders, please contact us today at 901-754-3117, so that you can come visit the best dentist in Germantown, TN. We have patients come from all over the southeast- including Memphis, TN- to visit Drs. Cooley and Flexsenhar. They have years of experience and we are always looking forward to helping you with any of your dental needs! Feel free to browse through our website to see more of our cosmetic dentistry solutions, dental implants, Invisalign, porcelain veneers, porcelain crowns, and more.