When people say “I have TMJ” they most often mean that they are suffering from a TMJ disorder. Your temporomandibular joints, also known as your TMJ, make it possible to open and close your mouth. Your TMJ, located on either side of your skull, work in tandem when you chew, speak or swallow and also include muscles and ligaments as well as the jaw bone. The TMJ control the lower jaw- your mandible- as it moves forward, backward and side to side.
Each TMJ has a disc of squishy cartilage between the ball and socket of the joint. This disc supports the jaw while enabling it to open wide, rotate or glide. Any problem that hinders this complicated system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working correctly can be called a TMJ disorder — or TMD. Skilled dentists like Dr. William Harper in Newport News, VA can diagnose and treat this problem to relieve the discomfort and stop the progression of dental issues that TMJ disorders can bring on.
What Causes TMJ Disorders (TMD)?
Possible causes of TMJ disorders include:
- Alignment of jaw and teeth
- Teeth grinding due to stress
How is TMJ Diagnosed?
A dentist must diagnosis a TMD before treatment can begin. A typical dental examination includes checking the joints and muscles of the jaw for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty of motion. Depending on the severity of the issues, Dr. Harper may refer you to a dental specialist or a physician for more advanced treatment.
How is TMD Treated?
For basic cases, there are several methods of treatments for TMJ disorders. Below are simple home remedies you can try before moving on to more involved treatment with a doctor or dentist. These steps allow for a “less is more” approach in treating TMJ disorders:
- Eating softer foods.
- Avoiding chewing gum and/or biting your nails.
- Applying heat packs to the pain.
- Practicing relaxation techniques to alleviate tension in the jaw, including meditation or biofeedback.
If your symptoms are more severe, the following treatments may be recommended by Dr. Harper:
- Exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles.
- Medications prescribed by your dentist; such as muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-inflammatory medications.
- Anxiety drugs to relieve tension causing you to clench or grind teeth.
- A mouth guard or bite plate to reduce clenching or grinding of teeth.
In some cases, your dentist may recommend correcting an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping some teeth and may even recommend orthodontic treatment necessary. Dr. Harper can suggest the most appropriate therapy based on the determined cause. If you are in the Newport News, VA area and think you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, any other dental ailment or just need a cleaning or consultation, please call 757.414.7227 to schedule with Dr. Harper or schedule with our office online.