In our mission to reduce pain and increase patient happiness, we examine many ways that the teeth, jaws, and jaw joints can affect your quality of life. One is TMJ disorder, which can cause headaches and many other problems, such as:
- Popping or clicking of the jaw.
- Locking or stiffness of the jaw.
- Migraines or headaches.
- Facial or shoulder pain.
These are the most common symptoms, but TMJ disorders can affect your life in other ways. You may be suffering from other problems besides these common ones, which we can treat or help you manage.
What Is TMJ Disorder?
The TMJ is the temporomandibular joint, which is the joint between the jawbone and the skull. Each TMJ is close to an ear. It is a small area of specialized tissues that connects your skull to your lower jawbone, which can make it vulnerable to stress and damage.
TMJ dysfunction or disorder is also called TMD. It can cause severe pain and health challenges that affect other bodily systems. This disorder can be complex and difficult to diagnose, which means many people suffer from this disorder and related problems without realizing the cause can be found in the joints of their jawbone.
What Causes TMD?
Each case of TMD is different, and you’ll need a thorough examination and diagnosis to uncover the specific type of TMD you have and the probable causes of it. However, some common ones are:
- Degenerative Joint Diseases: These include arthritis and other problems that can weaken joints in general, and so can damage the TMJ.
- Trauma: An accident or other source of damage to the mouth or face can change the structure of the mouth and compromise the health and integrity of the TMJ.
- Emotional Stress: Challenges such as depression or anxiety can cause problems with the TMJ, particularly when stress leads to grinding of the teeth.
- Bruxism: Ongoing teeth-grinding may happen both while you’re asleep and awake. This can overload the TMJ and damage the tissues there.
Your jaw joints, jaw, and teeth are highly involved when you eat, interact with others, perform certain kinds of work, and perform many other activities in life. If you’re suffering from pain in or around your jaw joint—even in your shoulders, neck, or head—it’s important to get a diagnosis of the problem and help for TMD as needed.
How Is TMD Treated?
- If you have symptoms that are commonly connected to TMD, we’ll first carefully examine your jaw joints. We can use an x-ray to take a detailed look at your jaw and search closely for any signs of dysfunction. We will also check your jaw movements and range of motion.
Some of our patients who suffer from migraines don’t realize that their migraines are connected to jaw pain. An exam can uncover connections such as these and will unlock treatment options that you might not have considered otherwise. There is hope, and there are solutions.
Our first treatment efforts are always simple lifestyle changes that you can do yourself. We will coach you and help you implement these new habits. If a small change in your routine relieves your pain, you’ll be glad you did it before we moved to more costly treatments.
In some patients, constant stress or bad habits may have caused inflammation in the jaw joint tissues, facial muscles, and other tissues and muscles. Because the stress is ongoing, this tissue damage is not allowed to heal. But certain behavioral changes can actually give your body time to naturally resolve these problems.
Changes can include:
- Taking a break from hard foods and from chewing gum.
- Placing cold or hot pads on facial muscles to lower inflammation.
- Facial stretches that you can perform several times per day.
- Stress-lowering routines to introduce more tranquility into your life.
- Being more aware of when you grind or clench your teeth, and making an effort to stop.
Dental Treatments for TMD
For more difficult cases of TMD, lifestyle changes are not enough. We can then:
Change the movement of your bite by strategically reshaping certain teeth. This works well when a type of bite is placing constant strain on the joint.
Create a custom mouthguard that you can wear at night. This will move your teeth into a new position that relieves strain on your jaw joint, allowing your tissues to heal naturally.
The healing process can take a few weeks to a few months. When joints and tissues have strained for months and years, this takes time to resolve. But the results are very gratifying; you’ll be able to enjoy daily activities without the former pain you’ve experienced, and without fear of migraines or other symptoms.
Call Dr. Hollinger for Integrated TMJ Care
If you’ve had TMJ surgery recommended to you, you may need a second opinion from Dr. Hollinger. Stress relief solutions or small dental changes or appliances may be all you need to enjoy days free of distracting pain.
Call us at Central Connecticut Orofacial Pain & Sleep Medicine today to get an appointment as soon as possible.