TMJ disorders – Symptoms and Causes
The temporomandibular (tem-puh-roe-mun-DIB-u-lur) joint (TMJ) connects your jawbone to your skull beneath the ear, serving as a type of natural sliding hinge working with our muscles of mastication to make a wide range of movement possible as we speak, chew, yawn, etc.
TMJ disorders — also referred to as “temporomandibular disorder” or TMD — can cause pain in this area, sometimes temporary. In many cases, the pain from TMJ disorders is only temporary and can be treated with nonsurgical options. When other “appliance treatment” measures fail and a patient’s jaw can’t open, is dislocated, or is revealed to have severe degeneration, TMJ Surgery can offer relief if successful.
Early detection and treatment can prevent problems from leading to more serious conditions. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons Hunter T. McCord, DDS, and Paul T. McCord, DDS, work with patients at their Cleveland TN oral surgery clinic to achieve better comfort and improved health.
What are signs and symptoms of TMJ?
You may be suffering from TMJ/TMD if you experience symptoms like:
- Tenderness or Pain in the jaw
- Aching pain near the ear
- Difficulty chewing
- Pain while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- A “clicking” sound
- A grating sensation when opening the mouth or chewing
- A locking of the joint, which renders it difficult to open or close the mouth
What Causes TMJ?
There can be several reasons for jaw discomfort. Painful TMJ disorders can result from erosion of the bones that interact in the joint or the cartilage that covers them. Imagine bones touching without a shock-absorbing material between them. The disk that normally keeps the hinge action smooth can move out of its proper alignment, causing pain during jaw movement.
Arthritis can cause a lot of pain throughout the human body, including the jaw, as the cartilage is damaged. Someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis may experience facial pain as part of those conditions. There are other connective tissue diseases that might also affect the temporomandibular joint.
An injury of some sort might also be the source of the discomfort, such as a blow to the cheek in a fight or impact. Even chronic grinding or clenching of the teeth over a long period of time can result in TMD.
Is there any way to cure TMJ naturally?
Techniques such as visiting a trained acupuncturist, practicing relaxation techniques, and using electronic devices that monitor the tightness of specific muscles are all strategies for treating chronic pain of TMJ/TMD. Most people will be referred to a doctor who specializes in TMJ disorders only after such alternatives fail to properly resolve the problem. The first step should be wearing a “night guard” or split to reduce the harmful effects of tooth clenching or grinding. If that fails to address the discomfort, you should follow up with your dentist.
Knowing when TMJ is Serious Enough to See a Doctor
Ocoee Oral Surgery can perform an examination and discuss possible causes of and treatments for suspected TMJ/TMD. It’s important for us to identify specific sites of discomfort and observe a patient’s range of motion for the jaw when opening and closing the mouth. Even listening closely can reveal a diagnosis.
Be prepared to talk to our Oral Surgeons about recent increases in your stress level, medications you take regularly, how long you’ve noticed the pain, whether it occurred in the past, as well as the frequency of headaches, neck aches or toothaches. It is important to get a sense of whether the pain is constant, if any activities seem to trigger the pain, any sounds the jaw makes when it moves, and how difficult it is to open the mouth normally. Armed with all of this information, we can better assess the situation and possible treatments.
In addition to the examination, dental X-rays, a CT scan, and MRIs may be needed to reveal the full scope of the problems with the joint disk.
Is surgery necessary for TMJ?
Surgical options are the LAST treatment of choice. Oral surgeons first look at reducing pain and inflammation with pain relievers or muscle relaxants, possibly supplementing this with the use of temporary appliances to keep the teeth apart in order to relax the muscles.
The exact treatment results from the consultation of your Cleveland TN oral surgeons after a careful examination. It’s very important to discuss all of the potential benefits and risks of oral surgery for TMJ/TMD so you have an opportunity to thoroughly understand your options. Patients typically want to know the recovery period and when they can expect to notice an improvement following a successful surgery. We can also explain the anesthetic procedure.
In severe cases where surgical procedures make sense, one option is TMJ Arthroscopy, which can require a full liquid diet in the first three weeks after the procedure. Open joint repair restructuring may follow if more conservative treatments will not resolve the issue. We can describe everything that is involved if and when we reach that point. Remember, surgery for TMJ/TMD is the last in a long line of treatments, so we advise patients to first exhaust other non-invasive options.
Ocoee Oral Surgery is happy we can help provide a range of remedies to alleviate jaw joint problems. Please call our office at (423) 479-8544 or email [email protected] if you wish to set up a consultation with our oral surgeons.
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