Everyone experiences the occasional headache and neck soreness. Often we simply write it off as a normal reaction to day-to-day stress. However, when pain in these areas become chronic or is accompanied by other symptoms, TMJ may be the reason. At Dentistry of Colorado, we offer expert TMJ diagnosis and TMJ treatment options.
What is TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, often referred to as “TMJ,” are conditions that cause dysfunction and pain in the jaw joint and muscles. These conditions can limit opening or closing, even causing your jaw to lock open, or to lock closed. Often people with TMJ disorder will have a popping noise in their joint when they open their mouth.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) gets its name because it connects your lower jaw bone, called the mandible, to temporal bone, which is the bone at the side of your head.
If you touch your face just in front of your ears and then open your mouth, you can feel the joints. To allow you to make all the different motions involved in talking, chewing, yawning, etc., the TMJ joints both hinge and slide. This makes it one of the more complicated joints in your body.
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans are affected by the disorder. It tends to be more common in women.
What Causes TMJ?
The exact cause of an individual’s TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine. The pain could be due to a combination of factors, like genetics, arthritis or jaw injury. People who have jaw pain usually tend to clench or grind their teeth, but the fact that you clench or grind your teeth doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop TMJ disorders. It’s important to distinguish the cause to come up with the appropriate TMJ treatment option.
Some known TMJ causes include:
- Persistent clenching or grinding of the jaw (bruxism)
- Autoimmune diseases (in which the body’s immune cells attack healthy tissue)
- Injuries to the jaw area
- Dental procedures (even prolonged mouth opening)
- Insertion of a breathing tube before surgery.
- Various forms of arthritis
Symptoms of TMJ
The pain of TM disorders is often described as a dull, aching pain, which comes and goes in the jaw joint and nearby areas. However, some people report no pain but still have problems moving their jaws.
Symptoms may include the following:
- Pain in the jaw joint and chewing muscles
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw
- Ear pain, pressure, fullness, ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Painful clicking, popping or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth
- Bite bite that does not feel right
- Pain that radiates into the neck and shoulders
Keep in mind that occasional clicking or discomfort in the jaw joint or chewing muscles is common and is not always a cause for concern. Often, the problem goes away on its own in several weeks to months.
Don’t Wait for Your TMJ Treatment
If your symptoms persist, it is a good idea to make an appointment to have your condition diagnosed. Increasingly, dentists are on the front line of treating TMJ, because the cause is often related to your teeth and your occlusion (the way your teeth fit together when you bite down.)
Most often when you have an event of pain in your jaw, it is a warning sign that should be treated early before it becomes a more involved and expensive treatment.
Dr. Sage Pollack is highly experienced in diagnosing and treating TMJ. If she determines that you are a good candidate for TMJ treatment and feels that she can give you some relief for the pain, she will start with some of the more conservative, reversible treatments.
How is TMJ Treated?
You can try some simple self-care practices are often ease symptoms, like eating soft foods, applying ice to the area or taking over-the-counter pain medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories).
Mild cases of TMJ can be treated with removable mouth guards, depending on your diagnosis. A night guard is an acrylic splint you wear while you are sleeping that protects your teeth and keeps your bite slightly open, which can help your jaw relax. These days, night guards are not near as bulky or obtrusive as they once were.
It is important that you get a night guard that is custom fitted by a dentist for your teeth. Store bought night guards will very often not help and could actually make things much worse.
All of our night guards are custom made for you at our in-house dental lab. If we determine that a night guard would be the right treatment for your TMJ, it is a simple process to get one made for you. We take impressions of your teeth and within a couple weeks, the night guard will be done. We’ll have you come back in so that we can adjust the fit to make it perfect for your teeth. If you need further adjustments, just come back into the office and we’ll take care of it.
Dr. Sage Pollack has had a lot of success using BOTOX® to treat TMJ. It is injected directly into specific muscles in the area. Since BOTOX® limits muscle function, it can often decrease TMJ symptoms and pain.
There are also corrective dental and orthodontic treatments available. Dr. Pollack may determine that that balancing bite through a process known as occlusal equilibration may be the most effective TMJ treatment for you. After completing a full exam and diagnosis of your situation, she will discuss all options that are available.
TMJ and Migraine Headaches
A lot of people have a combination of TMJ and issues with Migraines. Although migraine headaches can have a variety of causes, one of the biggest reasons people get migraines is actually closely related to the causes of TMJ disorder. Often treating a person’s TMJ will help lessen migraine headaches, a combination of splint therapy and Botox (a migraine protocol) have been very successful at helping individuals who suffer from chronic migraines.
Schedule Your Appointment Now
At Dentistry of Colorado, we are experts in treating TMJ. There is no reason to suffer from pain in your jaw area. Many of the treatments for TMJ are very simple, inexpensive and fast-acting.
We will thoroughly diagnose your particular situation and come up with a treatment plan custom made for you. Contact us now to schedule your complimentary consultation. We have seven offices in Colorado to serve our patients including Arvada, Belmar, Boulder, Cherry Creek, Lafayette, Sloan’s Lake and Westminster.