While most patients are focused on their teeth when they visit the dentist, chances are they don’t spend much time considering the health of their temporomandibular joints. These important joints allow you to manipulate your jaw, and you use them every time you bite, chew, speak, or yawn.
Dentists pay close attention to the strength of your jaw, as it can impact your overall oral health. If you experience frequent headaches, jaw pain, or popping noises when you open and close your mouth, you could be suffering from a condition called TMJ Disorder (also known as TMD).
What is TMD Disorder?
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) affects your joints and jaw muscle, and could be developed as a result of injury, jaw dislocation, inflammation from arthritis, or excessive pressure from bruxism. Patients sometimes dismiss TMD as simple jaw or joint pain, but the symptoms don’t stop there. Other issues associated with the disorder include facial pain, headaches, earaches, pain in your neck and shoulders, and clicking or popping when moving your mouth
If you’ve been experiencing persistent jaw pain or have noticed a popping sensation when moving your mouth, it’s important to schedule an appointment at Summit Dental Care. One of our experienced dentists will examine your jaw for any symptoms of TMD. With the proper care and treatment, our staff will be able to help relieve your symptoms and resolve the cause of your discomfort.
Symptoms of TMD
TMD has many symptoms that patients wouldn’t immediately associate with their jaw. If you experience any of the following issues, we recommend scheduling an appointment and having your jaw professionally examined. Common signs of TMJ disorders include:
- Frequent pain and tenderness in the jaw
- Headaches, toothaches, or earaches
- Difficulty or pain when chewing
- Ringing in the ears (Tinnitus)
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
Causes of TMD
TMD can be caused by several factors that put pressure or strain on your jaw. Our expert dentists will work with you to help pinpoint the exact causes of your discomfort. Since cases vary from patient to patient, it’s important to establish a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Some proven causes of TMJ include:
- Erosion or displacement of the disk in the joint
- Joint cartilage damaged by arthritis
- Stress on the joint from teeth grinding (bruxism)
- Joints damaged from injury
Non-Surgical Treatments For TMD
One of the most common and effective treatments for TMD is a nighttime mouth guard. This is an oral appliance resembling a whitening tray or sports mouthguard. At Summit Dental Care, we can create a custom mouthguard using digital impressions of your mouth. This will protect the joints and jaw muscles by absorbing the impacts of teeth grinding, preventing further wear and allowing your TMJ to heal.
(Adobe Stock # 118118203>
Surgical Treatments for TMD
Surgery may be recommended for patients with severe cases of TMD. Keep in mind that surgery is generally suggested when other treatments fail to achieve the desired results. There are different surgical procedures that our dentists may recommend depending on your case.
This method involves injecting a liquid into the joints to flush them out and is the least invasive of the surgical procedures. Arthroscopy is where a small camera is inserted into the joints so we can examine them before using small tools to treat the tissue. Open joint surgery is the most invasive surgical option, where we open up the joint to fix or replace it if necessary.
Treating TMD At Home
Depending on your case, it may be possible to alleviate TMJ at home through lifestyle changes. There are exercises that you can try to help increase the range of motion of your jaw. For some, pain relievers help to reduce the discomfort caused by TMD. If your TMD is caused by stress-related teeth grinding, relaxation techniques may also be beneficial.
Home treatments for TMD are only effective if your condition is mild. If these remedies don’t work for you, it’s important to contact our office and schedule a consultation with one of our dentists to seek professional treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I see a doctor for TMJ issues?
Treatment for TMD is quicker and easier when the condition is caught early. If you’re experiencing symptoms related to your jaw muscles, don’t ignore them. Contact our office to speak with one of our professionals to get a proper diagnosis. If left untreated, TMD can cause you more serious pain that would require further treatment.
Can I reliably diagnose myself with TMD?
While it’s possible to perform certain tests yourself, it’s still recommended to seek out a professional dental assessment. Our office will be able to diagnose your TMJ issues and create a customized treatment plan to relieve your symptoms and get you smiling again.
Does TMD go away?
Patients suffering from TMD usually require some form of treatment to permanently resolve the condition. While symptoms may sometimes subside on their own, TMD usually worsens over time if left untreated, leading to further complications with your oral health.
You Don’t Have to Get By With TMJ Pain
Summit Dental Care can offer you reliable and effective treatment to tackle the causes of your TMJ disorder. If you’re tired of living with jaw pain and other symptoms, call our office at (208) 733-9999 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced dentists.