Thursday, April 9, 2015

Taming TMJ

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) Syndrome [also known as TMJ Joint Disorder] is a disorder that comes with a great deal of discomfort before an individual reaches out to their doctor or dentist for assistance. Located on each side of the head, the temporomandibular joints are the joints and jaw muscles that enable us to open and close our mouths. These joints, which connect the skull to the jaw, work together when we chew, speak or swallow. They include the jaw bone, along with muscles and ligaments that must work in harmony to be effective. They control the mandible – or lower jaw – in moving forward, backward and side-to-side.

Any problems that prohibit the jaw moving the muscle can cause pain that is experienced in a number of places about the head. Pain associated with TMJ Syndrome may involve the face, ears, forehead, neck or eyes. Some signs to look for include:

►Popping/clicking of the jaw

►Locking or dislocation of the jaw (usually after widely yawning), referred to as lockjaw

►Tightness, stiffness, or soreness in the jaw or neck muscles

►Pain in the jaw, particularly around of the joint area

►Pain in or around the ears or sounds of cracking in the ears

►Ringing or popping sounds (tinnitus) or a sense of fullness in the ears


►Blurred vision

►Facial pain, cheek pain, or chin tingling or numbness

►Pain in the shoulders

There are several things that are believed to contribute to TMJ Syndrome. Some of the most common causes are:
►Dislocation of the joint
►Grinding teeth while sleeping
►Injuring the jaw or jaw joint
Misalignment of the teeth or jaw
What should you do if you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms? In addition to a conversation with your dental professional about the symptoms you are experiencing, there are several home remedies that may provide some relief. Some home remedies to try include:
►Stress Reduction
►Avoid chewing gum
►Avoid biting one’s nails
►Over the counter anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
►Ice packs to the affected area
►Gentle stretching of the neck and jaw muscles
►Relaxation techniques
What can be done when home remedies fail to stop your pain? If you have tried home remedies and are still experiencing pain, your dentist can suggest several options that can help. Your dentist will diagnose TMJ Syndrome by taking a medical history and doing a physical exam. The dentist will examine the joints and muscles for tenderness, difficulty in moving, range of motion and popping or clicking. Sometimes an MRI of the temporomandibular joint is ordered to determine damage to the joint, as well as to rule out other medical problems in the area.
Following a diagnosis of TMJ Syndrome, your dentist may recommend a dental splint, which is a dental appliance placed in the mouth. The splint keeps teeth aligned and prevents tooth grinding. Relief using this method is often swift as no further damage can take place while you are asleep.
Your dentist may also recommend physical therapy to strengthen muscles, increase range of motion and improve flexibility. Physical therapy involves an array of exercises for the jaw. Where necessary, your dentist may recommend fixing an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping a number of the teeth. Orthodontic treatment may also be recommended.  Some dentists prescribe medications to aid in treatment. Muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety drugs, steroids and anti-inflammatories are among the possible medications that may be prescribed. Finally, in severe cases of TMJ Syndrome, dental surgery or surgery on the jaw may be necessary. Your dentist will suggest a course of treatment based on the severity of your condition and the cause identified.
TMJ Syndrome causes discomfort and pain, but it is treatable. There is no need to remain in pain. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above and need help, do not wait. Call your dentist for an appointment. Get answers and get relief.
Remember to keep checking back for new posts offering you more information about dental care issues and concerns. Your good oral health is our concern!
Wishing you bright smiles!