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We All Have TMJ

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TMJ Pain

What is TMJ?

You’ve probably heard someone say “I have TMJ.”  Well, so do I.  And you do, too.  In fact, without TMJ, you wouldn’t be able to open your mouth to smile, talk, or move it around to chew.  The acronym TMJ actually refers to the temporomandibular joint, the joint that controls your jaw and allows it to move.  A TMJ Disorder, however, is not something everyone has.  And for those of us who do, we know how unpleasant and disruptive it can be.

So what’s the proper way to refer to a disorder relating to the TMJ?  According to Dr. Marianna Kovitch, TMJD (the Temporomandibular Joint Disorder), or the umbrella term TMD (Temporomandibular Disorder), covers pain and dysfunction associated with the TMJ and muscles of mastication.  It can be very painful, and when left alone, extremely damaging to your teeth, head and way of life.

Side Effects of a TMJ Disorder

A disorder of the jaw or TMJ can cause daily disruptions to your life including difficulty sleeping, sore teeth and jaw, and chronic headaches or migraines.  TMJD is commonly attributed to bruxism, involuntary or habitual clenching or grinding of your teeth (usually while you sleep), which can also lead to unnecessary wear and tear on the premolars and molars and eventually even causing holes.  When left untreated, a jaw disorder can be extremely detrimental to your dental health and overall wellbeing.

Treatment Options

If you have a disorder of the jaw or joint, don’t despair.  There are several treatment options available depending on the diagnosis, including splint therapy, occlusal adjustments, guards and medication.  Only your dentist can help determine which option may be best for you.

These treatments may are successful in protecting your teeth and minimizing the other side effects; however, the pain and discomfort is not always erased completely.  In these cases, there are additional treatment options available that some people have found helpful.  Some of these include chiropractic adjustments to the jaw, head and neck, massage therapy inside the mouth that helps to ease the muscle tension from clenching and grinding, and Botox© injections to the specific areas of facial tension to relax the muscles.

If none of the above completely eliminates the issues caused by the TMJD or TMD, then at times, it may be necessary to obtain a referral to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) for analysis.  Types of surgery an OMS may suggest to treat a jaw disorder include Arthrocentesis, Arthroscopy or Arthrotomy, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (www.AAOMS.org).  During Arthrocentesis, fluid is flushed from the joint and the joint is then gently stretched.  Arthroscopy involves the use of a miniature telescoping tool inserted near the bottom of the ear to repair the joint.  And Arthrotomy is an open joint surgery used to reset the joint for the most complex issues.  However, as with most forms of surgery, it should never be entered into lightly as it cannot guarantee to fix the problem and could possibly even present additional issues.

Get Help Today

As with any other daily concern that causes chronic pain or discomfort, the sooner you obtain a diagnosis, the sooner you can find relief.  Do you clench or grind your teeth?  If you have frequent headaches and tooth or jaw pain, there’s a good chance you might have some form of TMJD/TMD.  But the good news is that surgery is rarely necessary, since so many other attractive and successful treatment options are available today.  Mention it to us at your next cleaning appointment to discuss your questions and concerns in more detail with your dentist.  Chances are, she can tell just by looking at your bite and grinding patterns which option will be best for you.