TMJ letters surrounded by human skull with lower jaw

You may have heard of TMJ disorder, but do you know what it is or how it affects your life? It’s time to learn. TMJ is a medical condition affecting the jaw joint. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jawbone to your skull via a hinge-like structure. It helps you chew food and forms an opening for your mouth, so you can talk and breathe comfortably.

When this joint shifts from its place, it can cause pain in your face and neck and all over your head. TMJ disorder can also affect other body parts, including the shoulders and arms in this case if you are in Oyster Bay, Huntington, or Melville in Long Island, New York, you will need to see a TMJ dentist immediately.

 

Classification of TMJ Disorder

TMJ is a common condition, affecting about 12% of the population. TMJ disorders are divided into three categories by the NIDCR:

  • Myofascial pain
  • Internal derangement of the joint
  • Degenerative joint disease

 

Myofascial pain is characterized by pain that starts at the base of your skull and radiates through your jaw muscles, neck muscles, and cheekbones. The cause of this type of TMJ disorder is unknown, but it may be linked to tension in your jaw muscles or inflammation in your joints.

woman feeling pain on her jawbone from TMJ disorder

 

Internal derangement of the joint means something has happened inside your jaw joint that causes it to malfunction. This might include damage to cartilage or ligaments around the joint—and it can cause significant pain!

dental x-ray scan of the painful jaw showing the teeth

 

Degenerative joint disease happens when there is wear and tear on your joints due to age or injury. This type of TMJ disorder can lead to chronic pain, stiffness in your joints (especially when they’re cold), popping sounds when you move your jaw around (called crepitus), or claudication.

old man holding on his paiful injured jaw

 

What Is the Leading Cause of TMJ Disorder?

TMJ disorder is both a medical and dental problem—problems in both areas cause it. The leading cause of TMJ disorders is dysfunction in the muscles of mastication (chewing). This can lead to periodontal disease (inflammation of the gums) and tooth wear. The most common causes of TMJ disorder include:

  • Misalignment between the lower jawbone and skull. The cause of this misalignment is injury or trauma to the jaw joint.
  • Bad habits like grinding teeth or clenching teeth
  • Stress
  • Genetics

It’s important to note that TMJ disorder isn’t just limited to adults—it can also affect children!

 

How Is TMJ Disorder Diagnosed?

The first step toward treating any condition is getting an accurate diagnosis from a medical professional who knows what they are doing. Your TMJ dentist will examine your mouth and assess its function, including looking for signs of injury or trauma to the jawbone.

The TMJ dentist will ask questions regarding your symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol. They may also take X-rays and CT scans of your teeth and jaws to look for damage to the joint or other problems with your mouth muscles and teeth alignment.

 

Symptoms of TMJ disorder

The symptoms of TMJ disorder include:

  • Pain in the jaw joint itself or surrounding areas like the back of your head; behind your ear, or on either side of your face near the cheekbone.
  • Pain when opening or closing your mouth.
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing food.
  • Difficulty speaking clearly due to pain from grinding teeth at night (bruxism).
  • Headaches

 

Treatment Options for TMJ Disorder

While it’s common, several TMJ treatment options are available to help you get back to enjoying your life.

 

Lifestyle Changes

office worker clenching his teeth from stress while surrounded by a group of business workers

An excellent treatment method for TMJ disorder is simple lifestyle changes. You can start by breaking some habits like clenching your jaw, chewing a gum or grinding your teeth that are contributing to your pain. You should also learn how to deal with stress. When people are stressed, they tend to engage in certain behaviors. Tooth grinding or jaw clenching, often known as bruxism, can aggravate TMJ symptoms in certain people.

 

Medicine or Pain Relievers

You may need medicine or pain relievers if your symptoms are severe. These medicines can help relieve some of the pain and swelling associated with TMJ disorder.

Over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help ease pain associated with TMJ disorder. Ibuprofen reduces inflammation, while acetaminophen reduces fever and headache pain by acting on the brain’s central nervous system.

Doctor is pointing to drug tablet and introducing the properties of the painkiller to patient with TMJ at office

You can purchase both medications without a prescription from your local pharmacy or grocery store. If you have been under the medicines for more than two weeks, talk to your TMJ dentist before continuing use. They can negatively impact you if taken for an extended period without medical supervision.

TMJ pain can also be reduced with non-invasive Biolase Laser therapeutic treatment. Each treatment session takes under 15min. Results may vary from case to case. Frequent therapy will help reduce symptoms over time.

 

Surgery

dental surgeon performing mouth surgery on TMJ patient

Surgery is unnecessary for most people who have a TMJ disorder. However, it may be necessary in cases where there is severe damage to the jaw joint or when you cannot manage pain with other treatments. Surgery helps restore normal alignment between the jaw joints to move quickly again without causing any pain or discomfort.

 

Cold and Hot Packs

Man suffering from jaw pain using hot or cold compress on white background

Another great way to reduce your TMJ disorder symptoms is by adding ice packs or hot packs to your daily routine. Ice packs can be placed over the jaw joint or around the neck area when desired; hot packs are also great for soothing aching muscles and joints.

 

Therapy

Physiotherapist massaging the face of a young woman with TMJ disorder

Physical therapy can help strengthen your jaw muscles and reduce pain caused by TMJ disorder. Your TMJ dentist may advise you to undergo therapy several times a week, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

 

Mouthguards/Nightguards for Teeth Grinding

Mouthguards are custom-made clear flexible elastic devices that fit over your teeth to protect them from injury when you grind or clench your teeth together. They can protect your teeth and other parts of your mouth from damage caused by nighttime grinding or clenching.

denture with clear night guard for TMJ treatment

Mouthguards also help decrease jaw pain and headaches caused by TMJ disorder by preventing excessive pressure on the TMJ area during sleep at night when grinding or clenching your teeth together due to stress or anxiety issues.

The most common and effective type of device used would be the NTI-style nightguard. The NTI mouthguard is made from a similar material as a conventional nightguard appliance. This device is specifically designed for the anterior teeth, which disoccludes the posterior teeth and helps relax your muscles when you clench or grind your teeth.

If you don’t treat TMJ disorder, it can lead to more severe problems like;

  • Bruxism
  • Tooth damage
  • Jawbone deterioration
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms in the face and neck area (from gripping too hard)
  • Hearing loss from excessive noise exposure in the ear canal (from grinding)
  • Heart problems due to stress caused by having painful joints throughout their body every day!

 

Bottom Line

Long Island NY Dentist Dr. Kate Brayman In Her Woodbury Dental Clinic

The good news is that TMJ disorder usually heals without treatment. However, if you continue to experience symptoms for more than two weeks, it’s essential to seek out the care of a TMJ dentist near Oyster Bay, Huntington, and Melville on Long Island, New York, today and get the answers you seek regarding TMJ.

Dr. Kate Brayman

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