You may have once heard someone say “I have TMJ”. This is true. Everyone has a TMJ. What these people most likely mean is that they are suffering from a TMJ disorder. Your temporomandibular joints, called TMJ for short, make it possible to open and close your mouth. Your TMJ, located on either side of your skull, work together when you chew, speak or swallow and include muscles and ligaments as well as the jaw bone. They also control the lower jaw- called your mandible- as it moves forward, backward and side to side.
Each TMJ has a disc of cartilage between the ball and socket of the joint. The disc supports the load while enabling the jaw to open wide and rotate or glide. Any problem that prevents this complicated system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working properly can be called a TMJ disorder. Dentists like Dr. Stacey Sparkman Hall of Williamsburg Center Dental Health in Williamsburg, VA can diagnose and treat this problem to alleviate the discomfort and stop the progression of dental issues that TMJ disorders can bring on.
What Causes TMJ Disorders (TMD)?
Possible causes of TMJ disorders include:
- Alignment of jaw and teeth
- Teeth grinding due to stress
How is TMJ Diagnosed?
A dentist must diagnose the issue before treatment can begin. A thorough dental examination will include checking the joints and muscles of the jaw for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty of motion.
Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, Dr. Hall may refer you to a physician or a dental specialist for more advanced treatment.
How is TMJ Treated?
For basic cases, there are several options for the treatment of TMJ disorders. The steps below are simple remedies to try at home before moving on to more involved treatment. These steps advocate for a “less is more” approach in treating TMJ disorders, and include:
- Eating softer foods
- Avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
- Applying heat packs to the pain
- Practicing relaxation techniques to alleviate tension in the jaw, including meditation or biofeedback.
If your symptoms are more severe, the following treatments may be recommended by Dr. Hall:
- Exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles
- Medications prescribed by your dentist; such as muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-anxiety drugs or anti-inflammatory medications
- A mouth guard or bite plate to reduce clenching or grinding of teeth.
In some cases, your dentist may recommend correct an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping some teeth. Orthodontic treatment may even be recommended if necessary. Dr. Hall can suggest the most appropriate therapy based on the determined cause. If you are in the Williamsburg, VA area and belive you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, any other dental ailment or just need a cleaning or consultation, please call 757.216.9873 to schedule with Dr. Hall at Williamsburg Center Dental Health or schedule with us online.