If you have ever heard of someone having “TMJ” before, what they are are really referring to is a disorder associated with the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). Huh? Let us explain. The TMJ is what connects your jaw to your skull, and allows your jaw to move up and down, and side to side. You use it for things such as eating (chewing), talking, and yawning. When the TMJ is out of whack, the muscles around it can also be affected. This is how temporomandibular disorders (TMD)—the official diagnoses—are formed. But, in our normal vernacular, most people mistakenly refer to the disorder by the name of the joint. Fortunately, a qualified TMJ dentist or therapist will be able to relieve much of the jaw pain associated with this type of disorder.
Symptoms associated with TMD can include TMJ pain (in the jaw joint), popping/clicking, pain in the ear and sometimes popping, jaw muscle stiffness and soreness, locking of the jaw, misalignment of the jaw, and headaches, to name a few. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, when should you give your TMJ dentist a call? First, keep in mind that a random popping of the jaw is perfectly normal, and should not cause too much alarm. It’s when the pain, popping, locking, etc. becomes persistent that you should call our Charleston dentist office. Once we are able to confirm the presence of a disorder or syndrome with your temporomandibular joint(s), we will be able to develop a TMJ treatment plan.
How does TMJ pain develop? Are you at risk? There are certain things that factor into your individual risk for these types of disorders. Your risk is increased if you have arthritis (like rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis), an injury to your jaw, chronic teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw (long term), and if you have any diseases that may affect the connectivity of your tissues which would then affect the tissues surrounding your jaw. You should certainly contact your TMJ dentist in Charleston if you have any of these issues along with pain in your jaw. We will be able to help uncover any connections between your risk factors and a possible diagnosis of a TMJ disorder.
If you are diagnosed with a TMJ disorder, we have good news! Most often, surgery is not required or recommended, except in extreme cases. Physical therapy of the jaw and pain management for TMJ treatment is probably the most effective course. There are easy things you can do to avoid the pain of TMJ syndrome—eat softer foods, avoid big jaw movements, learn ways to reduce and manage your stress, using cold packs, and following various jaw stretching and moving techniques that your TMJ dentist or therapist prescribes. As a Charleston cosmetic dentist, we see different stages of TMJ diseases, and can talk to you about how best to manage the pain and repair the damage that the disorder has caused. However, depending on the severity of your TMD, the less invasive remedies may not be an option and we would have to discuss other options—jaw splints, oral appliances, bite guards, possibly Botox, and possibly surgery or implants to replace the jaw joint. But all of this can be assessed and discussed with a qualified TMJ dentist…like us!
It is important to remember that pain in the TMJ is common, and often will go away on its own. But if there are persistent issues, we (as your dentist in Charleston) will walk you through the process of diagnosing and customizing a treatment specifically for resolving your TMJ pain.