Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, or grating noise when you open your mouth, or trouble opening your mouth wide.
Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?
- Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
- Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
- Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
- Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
- Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
- Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
- Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat, or yawn?
- Have you ever injured your neck, head, or jaws?
- Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
- Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
- Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
- Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
- Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?
The more times you answered “yes”, the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they are treated.
The initial goal to treat disorders of the TMJ is to identify the causes of the problem and try to modify or eliminate them. Most TMJ disorders are best treated with conservative methods, which may include behavior/habit modification, hot/cold compresses, soft diet, jaw exercises, and anti-inflammatory pain medication such as ibuprofen, naproxen, etc. Narcotic pain medications are generally not effective for TMJ problems because they do not address inflammation within the joint. It is important to understand that relief of TMJ symptoms are gradual and can often take weeks to months to improve. Often, long-term relief from TMJ symptoms involves lifestyle modification that incorporates some or all of the conservative methods previously mentioned. Very rarely is surgery needed to correct TMJ problems. Our surgeons perform some surgical TMJ procedures, but you may require referral to another facility that specializes in TMJ surgery.