There are various reasons why individuals develop TMJ disorders. Some people may grind or clench their teeth, which puts stress on the jaw muscles and causes pain in their TMJ joints. In addition, some individuals may have damaged jaw joints because of trauma or disease, such as a broken jaw or arthritis. Arthritis can tear the muscle ligaments in the jaw or cause direct damage to the disks. When this occurs, the cartilage, which acts as a cushion, can easily slip out of place.
When you notice that your bite is misaligned, you have pain in the jaw, and you hear a clicking sound when your mouth is opening, it could be signs of TMJ. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself to see if you may need treatment for TMJ problems:
- Do you notice stiff, sore muscles around your jaws when you awake?
- Is the pain worsened when you clench your teeth?
- Do you have difficulty biting into food with your front teeth?
- Do you have neck aches or headaches that occur more frequently than normal?
- Is it painful when you eat, open your mouth, or yawn?
- Do you have a history of past joint problems like arthritis?
- Do you have teeth that are loose, broken, sensitive, or overly worn?
- Do you notice that your top teeth and bottom teeth no longer meet when you close your mouth?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, TMJ could be the cause for your symptoms. The best approach is to contact a skilled dental professional with experience in treating TMJ disorders.
What are the Treatment Approaches for TMJ Disorders?
The first step is consulting a dental professional for an evaluation to confirm you have a TMJ disorder. In addition, it is also important to note that TMJ disorders will heal when professional care is paired with proper self-care. The primary goal of treatment is to relieve joint, disk, and muscle pain, which can be helped with pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, and/or muscle relaxants. In addition, there are times when steroids are injected into the joints to relieve inflammation and pain. Here are some self-care treatments that can ease the pain that is associated with TMJ:
- Eat soft foods
- Rest and exercise your jaw
- Apply heat and ice
- Maintain good posture
- Try to keep your teeth apart except when you are chewing
In addition, managing stress can be an ideal way to treat TMJ disorders. This could include physical therapy or biofeedback. You may also be advised to wear a clear plastic device known as a splint or night guard. A splint is placed on the top and bottom teeth to help keep them from touching. As a result, the jaw muscles will relax and some of the pain will diminish. A splint also protects jaw joints, disks, tendons, and cartilage because it prevents individuals from grinding their teeth when they sleep.
There are also anterior positioning appliances available, which help to move your jaw slightly forward, to correct bite problems by helping the disks to properly reposition. This appliance can be kept on for 24 hours a day, or you can keep it on at night to correct the position of your jaw.
Is Bite Correction or Surgery Recommended?
When a TMJ disorder has sparked problems that significantly hinders your teeth from properly making contact, you could need treatment that may include orthodontics, a bite adjustment, or restorative dental procedures. An arthroscopy and open joint repair are surgical procedures that are sometimes needed in severe cases of TMJ disorders. TMJ surgery is typically recommended for people who are not able to open their jaw, have a dislocated jaw, or have excessive degeneration. Moreover, surgery can also be performed on individuals who have previously had an unsuccessful appliance treatment for TMJ.