Many individuals experience pain, discomfort, and/or stiffness in the face, jaw, neck, and other other regions of the body caused by temporomandibular joint disorder (often referred to as TMJ Disorder, or TMD). Problems affecting the joint that connects the upper and lower jaws can lead to debilitating symptoms, so it is important to know that there are treatments available. If you are suffering from TMJ Disorder, our dental team in Salisbury can evaluate your needs and develop a customized treatment plan designed to reduce the symptoms of this very common condition.

What Is TMJ Disorder (TMD)?

TMJ Disorder is a condition in which the temporomandibular joint is affected by inflammation, imbalance, or other issues that are producing symptoms in the same general area and/or in other areas of the body. In order to understand this complex system a bit more, we need to go over some simple anatomy. First, there is the jaw joint (TMJ). It is called the joint because it is between two bones: the temporal bone (tempero) and the mandible (mandibular) or lower jaw bone. There are two joints and muscles on each side of the head and neck which move the lower jaw. These are complicated movements that move the lower jaw open, close, side to side, and forward. This requires both jaw joints to work together, but in different positions. Many people have joint problems in the jaw, similar to having other joint issues in the body; however, the jaw joint is unique in two ways. First, it is the only place in the body where two joints work together with two sets of muscles. Second, it is the most used joint in the body. It moves every time you swallow, talk, or eat. It is estimated that you swallow once per minute—or 2,000 times per day—not including eating. Talking involves more jaw movement than swallowing, while eating requires the most effort. When problems arise due to the temporomandibular joint, they can affect one’s day-to-day life and get progressively worse if left untreated. Fortunately, there are several treatments available that can address these concerns and help many patients effectively reduce the symptoms of TMJ Disorder. 

What Are the Causes of TMJ Disorder?

There are various causes for TMD. The most common cause is trauma or injury to the jaw joint. This can happen after opening too wide when eating, sleeping on one side, a long dental procedure, or after general anesthesia. Most of the time the jaw joint and muscles heal by themselves with the help of rest, icing the joint, or providing heat prior to moving the joint. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, like aspirin or ibuprofen, can also help relieve discomfort. When pain lasts longer than one week, professional help should be sought from a dentist or physical therapist. Jaw exercises may be recommended. 

Another cause for TMD could be arthritis. The jaw joint is no different than any other joint in your body, and it should be treated by a physician or a rheumatologist. Abnormal habits that overly stress the muscles and jaw joint can cause TMD. Harmful dental habits such as grinding (bruxism), clenching, ice chewing, gum chewing, and fingernail biting create forces that are much greater than chewing forces. A dentist can evaluate and make recommendations to modify these behaviors or make appliances such as bite guards to minimize their effect. 

Additionally, an abnormal bite called malocclusion can be the sole cause or a contributing factor with an abnormal habit of TMD. There are numerous factors that cause an uneven bite, such as alterations to normal muscle and jaw and teeth alignment. These may include mouth breathing, thumb sucking, prolonged use of the bottle, teething rings or sipping cups, loss of and failure to replace teeth, wisdom teeth, tooth wear, tooth erosion, gum disease, or ill-fitting dentures. 

What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?

TMJ Disorder may be responsible for a number of symptoms, some of which can be quite debilitating. While the following is not an all-inclusive list, one or more of these signs and symptoms may indicate TMJ Disorder: 

  • Headache
  • Jaw joint or muscle ache 
  • Limited ability to fully open or close the mouth 
  • Facial pain 
  • Pain experienced in the back, shoulders, and/or neck 
  • Jaw locking 
  • A popping or clicking sensation in the jaw 
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) 
  • Trouble chewing, talking, or yawning 
  • Facial muscle fatigue 
  • Dizziness/vertigo 
  • Facial swelling 
  • Numb sensation in the arms, hands, and/or fingers 

What Are the TMJ Disorder Treatment Options?

There are several different treatment techniques and therapies that have proven effective for TMD in many patients. Delmarva Dental Services offers options for individuals that can be ideal for mild cases of the condition as well as moderate-to-severe cases. The precise treatment will be based on each patient’s unique needs, which can be determined upon evaluation. Some of the options include using laser dentistry for healing and pain management, customized oral appliances such as nightguards to alleviate pressure on the jaw joints or to improve bite alignment, orthodontic procedures, restorative dental care, anti-inflammatory medications, or even BOTOX® injections for quick relief to muscle spasms. 

To find out if you are an ideal candidate for TMJ Disorder treatment, please contact us today to schedule an oral examination. 

Can TMJ Disorder Go Away On Its Own?

For some individuals, TMJ Disorder may dissipate on its own. For others, it could become a long-term problem that may become worse. If you are experiencing even mild pain or discomfort for more than a few days, it is best to seek an evaluation so that the root cause may be determined and symptoms may be reduced. 

How Much Does TMJ Disorder Treatment Cost?

How Much Does TMJ Disorder Treatment Cost?
The total cost of TMJ Disorder treatment is significantly dependent on the treatment(s) recommended to address the condition. Our practice offers a full variety of payment options in order to help make this part of the process as convenient as possible for our patients. Once the treatment plan is in place, a member of our team can calculate an estimate of the total cost and answer any questions you may have. 

Please contact Delmarva Dental Services for more information on TMJ Disorder treatment, or to schedule an appointment. 

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