The TMJ, known medically as the temporomandibular joint, refers to the joints in the jaw region. The temporomandibular joints are actually the two joints that fuse the skull to the jaw. Your TMJ is responsible for allowing motions like chewing and speaking. When the chewing muscles and the jaw joints are not working in sync, it can result in TMJ disorder.
Those who experience symptoms in the jaw joints are often diagnosed with TMJ disorder. This term covers a variety of symptoms including clicking noises and pain in the jaw. However, it also includes symptoms that you may not even think to associate with the TMJ. Symptoms like hearing problems, neck pain, teeth grinding, sinus problems, and headaches can all be related to TMJ disorders.
The Various Causes Of TMJ Disorder
If you’re experiencing pain in the jaw area, then it’s important to understand the causes of TMJ disorder, which can include the following:
- Teeth clenching
- Teeth grinding
- Gum chewing
- Misalignment of the teeth or jaw
- Trauma to the teeth or jaw
Being able to identify the underlying cause of your TMJ disorder will allow you to find the correct treatment for your situation. If you’re having symptoms of TMJ, talk to your dentist about diagnosing the condition. You must be able to understand the cause of your TMJ disorder so that you can treat it successfully.
How Is TMJ Disorder Treated?
Since TMJ disorder can have a variety of causes and varying symptoms, you’ll need to formulate a treatment approach that addresses your individual needs. You may be able to treat your condition with home care after talking to a dentist. If your issue is more severe, however, you may require the help of a dental health professional or physician.
Self-care should be the first method of treatment for your TMJ disorder. Start by using over the counter NSAIDs. These include drugs like Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and Aspirin. Follow the dosage instructions on the specific medication that you choose to use for the best results.
You should be utilizing ice packs on and off to help reduce the swelling of your joints. Additionally, you should be moving your muscles with gentle stretches and/or massage. Be sure to avoid chewing gum as it can worsen your symptoms.
If you notice that your condition isn’t responding to home treatment, then it’s time to seek professional help. There are various types of treatments available. The ones that will be most effective for you will depend on the root cause of your condition. Some popular professional treatments for TMJ disorder include Botox injections, physical therapy, dental splints, and prescription medications.
Surgery is not commonly performed for this condition as many other types of professional and self-care treatments are typically very effective. However, in some severe cases, surgery may be performed.
This type of surgery is done arthroscopically and works to repair or replace the joint itself. This is a type of open-joint surgery that can carry its own risks. Talking with your surgeon about the pros and cons ahead of time is a must before undergoing this type of surgery.
Understanding The Risk Factors
When it comes to TMJ disorder, there are various attributes that could put you at a higher risk of developing the condition.
Surprisingly, the first risk factor is having poor posture. When your upper back and neck muscles are strained due to poor posture, it can start to create abnormalities in the function of your jaw muscles. Stress can also create muscle tension that leads to jaw clenching.
Studies show that women who are between the ages of 18 and 44 are at a higher risk for this condition. Those who are dealing with chronic arthritis will also likely have issues with TMJ disorder as their joints become inflamed. If you’ve experienced jaw trauma in the past or have teeth that have grown in poorly, you’re at a higher risk for developing TMJ disorder as well.
Diagnosing TMJ Disorders
If you believe that you have TMJ disorder, then it’s a good idea to seek professional help to confirm your self-diagnosis. Your family dentist should be capable of diagnosing this specific condition, or they may refer you to another dental professional. They’ll start by taking your medical history and performing a physical exam on your jaw. Since there is no specific test for TMJ disorder, your dentist will rely on your physical exam results and your symptoms to diagnose your condition.
In some cases, your family dentist may refer you to a specialist. They may refer you to a number of different professionals including oral specialists, maxillofacial specialists, otolaryngologists or dental specialists. Any of these professionals may opt for ordering an MRI of your temporomandibular joint. This is done with the intent of looking for damage to your jaw joint and cartilage. Imaging is performed to rule out other medical problems that could be causing your symptoms.
Get Help for TMJ Issues
TMJ disorder is a very unique condition. There are various symptoms that can seem unrelated to the temporomandibular joint but are actually caused by TMJ issues. By having a better understanding of how the TMJ affects the entire body, you can better identify what symptoms your TMJ disorder is causing and why.
To learn more about TMJ and to schedule a diagnostic appointment with Dr. John Paul Gallardo in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.