The temporomandibular joint is the hinge that connects your jaws to the skull. The joint is located in front of each ear, and it allows you to move your jaw when you yawn, chew, or talk. Temporomandibular jaw disorder is a problem with the muscles of your face. Although the exact cause of TMJ disorders is unknown, you could be at a high risk of developing the condition if you grind your teeth regularly, have arthritis, or have a jaw injury.

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction causes severe jaw pain and sometimes, throbbing headaches. This could prevent you from chewing your food or speaking properly. If you experience symptoms like muscle stiffness in the jaws, a severe headache, popping sounds on the TMJ site, or pain in your facial muscles, you must seek immediate care.

Since the symptoms of TMD could mimic the symptoms of other oral health conditions, your dentist will assess your situation to determine the exact disorder you have before recommending treatment. Seeking expert dental care is critical if you have been diagnosed with TMJ disorders. At Beach Dental Care Anaheim, we offer top-notch dental care services for all our clients dealing with TMD in Anaheim, CA.

Understanding Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

TMJ disorders are conditions that affect the jaw joints and surrounding ligaments. These conditions can cause severe pain and discomfort. Additionally, you could be unable to open your mouth or chew your food properly when you have these conditions. You have two temporomandibular joints, one on each side of the face. The TMJ connects the lower jaw to the skull.

Temporomandibular joint dysfunctions are classified into three main categories, including:

  • Disorders affecting the chewing muscles
  • Headaches associated with TMD
  • Jaw joint disorders.

Common Causes of TMJ Disorders

There is no single cause of temporomandibular joint disorder. Instead, it could be a result of a combination of different factors, including:

  • Jaw injury. If you have a broken or dislocated jaw, you are likely to develop temporomandibular joint dysfunction. You can break or dislocate your jaw after an accident or during vigorous sporting activities.
  • Bruxism. Constant tooth grinding and clenching is a common cause of temporomandibular joint disorders.
  • Arthritis. Arthritis is a condition that involves the deterioration of your bone health. If you have arthritis in your jaw joint, you could suffer from TMD.
  • Stress. Stress is the physical, emotional, and intellectual reaction of your body to certain conditions. Due to the link between stress and tooth grinding, you could develop TMD.

The following factors increase your risk of developing temporomandibular joint disorders:

  • Use your teeth as tools. If you adopt the habit of using your teeth to rearrange clothing, open bottles, and tear papers, you could strain your jaw and cause TMJ disorders.
  • Poor pressure. Placing excessive pressure on your facial and neck muscles can increase your chances of developing TMD.
  • Chewing ice. Chewing ice can not only damage your tooth enamel but also strain your temporomandibular joints.
  • Daytime teeth clenching. Most people who grind their teeth have mouthguards to wear during the night. However, daytime clenching can also cause jaw problems, including TMD.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

The symptoms of TMJ disorders vary depending on the severity of your condition. If you experience the following symptoms, you must consult with your dentist for an assessment:

  • Jaw pain. Jaw pain is a common symptom for people with temporomandibular joint disorders. This could be in the form of stiffness or a dull ache along the ear line. Jaw pain could be mild or severe, depending on the cause and severity of your condition. This type of pain affects your quality of life by limiting your ability to open your mouth and speak.
  • Neck pain. Neck pain is the pain around your spine below your head. Neck pain is a common symptom of temporomandibular joint disorders. Sometimes, neck pain may be associated with other health issues. Therefore, an assessment of your pain will determine the exact condition. Neck pain associated with TMD feels like a persistent or stabbing pain that radiates to the shoulders and arms.
  • Jaw popping. Jaw popping is the clicking sound from your jaw when you yawn, chew, or speak. The condition is caused by trauma to the jaw or teeth clenching. Jaw clicking can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of damage to your temporomandibular joint.
  • Severe headaches. Headaches make life miserable. Your headache may be a result of multiple factors, including stress, a bad sleeping posture, and alcohol. Individuals suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder will experience severe headaches. When you consult your dentist, they will perform a wide range of tests, which may include X-rays and CT scans, to determine whether your headache is a result of TMD.
  • Toothache is the most common dental issue among adults and children. When you have a damaged temporomandibular joint, there will be excessive pressure on your jaw, causing toothache. The type of toothache associated with TMJ disorders is dull and radiates around the jaw. This makes it challenging for you to chew your food correctly.
  • Malocclusion is the change in how your teeth fit when you bite down. Bad bites are a common dental problem among Americans. There are many causes of malocclusion, including genetics and gum disease. Therefore, if you notice that your teeth no longer fit together when you bite, you should seek dental care. Teeth misalignment can cause other dental problems, including tooth loss and gum disease.
  • Limited mouth motion. The temporomandibular joints connect your jaw to the skull and allow for movement of the jaw when you speak or chew your food. If you have difficulties moving your mouth or facial muscles, you may need an assessment and testing for TMJ disorders.

Diagnosis of TMJ Disorders

When you consult your dentist about the symptoms of TMJ disorders, a full dental checkup will be needed. The dentist will:

  • Observe how the motion changes when you close and open your mouth.
  • Press on your face and jaws to determine the exact areas of discomfort.
  • Listen to or feel your jaw as you make different movements.

If these assessments yield suspicion that you have a serious issue, the dentist may recommend the following additional tests to confirm their diagnosis:

  • Dental X-rays. Dentists use dental X-rays to determine the type and extent of damage to your temporomandibular jaw. The results from your X-ray could dictate the type of treatment applicable to your condition.
  • CT scans. A CT scan uses a series of X-rays and a computer to create a detailed image of your bones and soft tissues.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging. An MRI creates clear images of different parts of the body using large magnets and radio waves. MRIs are appropriate for detecting TMDs because they do not use X-rays and can be performed as often as necessary.

Treatment of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

Treatment for TMJ disorders is essential to avoid further oral health complications that could arise from the disorders. Your treatment plan will be based on the following factors:

  • The severity of your condition. Your dentist will recommend non-invasive treatments like therapy and medications if your symptoms are mild. This helps avoid unnecessary surgical procedures.
  • Your age. A person’s age may determine the appropriate treatment for their TMJ disorders. While TMD is common in older individuals, children and adolescents can also develop the condition. For younger individuals, the condition may respond to mild treatments.
  • Your medical history Before the dentists make up a treatment plan for your temporomandibular joint disorders; they must assess your medical history and current health. This helps determine if you are allergic to the treatments recommended for the condition.
  • The duration of your condition is expected to last. Prolonged use of medication can have devastating effects on your overall health. Therefore, a condition that is expected to last longer could be treated with therapy or surgery.
  • Your preference. When you report signs of TMD to your dentist, they will consider your opinion when suggesting treatment options.

Treatment options for TMJ disorders include:

Medication

There are several types of medication that your dentist will recommend to ease the pain and discomfort associated with TMD, including:

  • Pain relievers
  • Anti-inflammatory medications like naproxen and ibuprofen
  • Muscle relaxers. If your temporomandibular joint disorder is caused by teeth grinding and clenching, you will need muscle relaxers.
  • These medications change how your body interprets pain. This helps reduce the discomfort from TMD.

You must provide your full medical history to your dentist before they recommend medication for this condition. This helps ensure that you are not allergic to the medication prescribed to you.

Non-Surgical Treatment

In addition to medication, you may need the following non-surgical treatment options for your TMD:

  • Mouth guards. Teeth grinding and clenching is a common cause of TMD. Additionally, this habit could worsen your condition. Your dentist can recommend the use of dental appliances like mouth guards or oral splints, which are placed in a favorable jaw position to reduce teeth-grinding effects.
  • Trigger point injections. This type of treatment involves dry needling or the injection of cortisol in certain areas of your jaw. This helps relieve the painful muscle knots.
  • Ultrasound therapy. This type of treatment for TMD involves the use of sound waves to bring heat into the tissues around your problematic temporomandibular jaw. The heat allows for muscle relaxation and proper blood flow.

Physical Therapy for TMJ Disorders

Physical therapy may be enough to reduce the pain associated with TMJ conditions. TMJ exercises include stretching your jaw to strengthen the muscles and joints. TMJ exercises will help relieve your jaw pain by:

  • Relaxing your jaw tension.
  • Stretching and strengthening your jaw muscles.
  • Increasing your temporomandibular jaw mobility.

If you are referred to a physical therapist, they will manipulate your jaw and stretch to strengthen the muscles. The therapist may also recommend some jaw exercises you can perform at home. Physical therapy for TMD  offers a wide range of benefits compared to other treatment options, including:

  • Determining the underlying cause. Although your dentist can diagnose you with a TMJ disorder, they may refer you to a physical therapist for a comprehensive examination of your facial muscles to determine the exact cause of your condition.
  • Restore function. In addition to easing the pain and discomfort associated with TMD, physical therapy can help restore the function of your temporomandibular joints.
  • Avoid medication side effects. After taking pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications, the pain could still return, which requires you to be on constant medication. Medicines have numerous side effects, which may include kidney failure. Undergoing physical therapy helps you avoid these effects.

Surgical treatment

If medications and non-surgical remedies are ineffective for your TMJ disorder, you may need surgery. Common types of surgery to correct your temporomandibular jaw disorders include:

  • Arthrocentesis. This type of procedure is used to determine the cause of jaw soreness. During the procedure, a needle could be used to remove fluid from the joint and ease the discomfort.
  • Open joint surgery. When a minimally invasive surgical procedure is not possible to correct your jaw problems, an oral surgeon would perform an open surgery. This procedure involves making long incisions to access the jaw joint.
  • TMJ arthroscopy. With this procedure, an oral surgeon will make an incision in front of your ear and insert a tube and camera. The surgeon will use the camera to determine the exact problem with your jaw and correct it. If you have scar tissue, it can be removed through this procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions on TMJ Disorders

The symptoms of TMJ disorders can cause severe pain and discomfort. When you are diagnosed with the condition, you may be unsure of what to expect in terms of treatment and recovery. The following are frequently asked questions on TMJ disorders:

     1. What should I expect if I have TMJ dysfunction?

Temporomandibular joint disorders affect people differently. In most cases, the outlook of your condition will depend on the exact cause of dysfunction. For some people, the symptoms of TMJ disorders can recover without treatment. For other individuals, the symptoms could be severe, which will impact their quality of life. If you have consistent jaw pain and severe headaches, you should seek immediate care.

     2. How long will TMD last?

The extent of damage to your temporomandibular joint and the type of treatment used for your condition will dictate the duration through which you have to deal with TMD. Acute TMD can resolve quickly with pain relievers and lifestyle changes. However, in severe cases, you must undergo surgery and physical therapy, which may take a while.

     3. Are TMJ disorders serious?

Although the symptoms of TMD go away for some people with treatment, addressing the root cause of your problem is critical to avoiding further complications. Even when you deal with severe cases of TMD, you must avoid aggressive treatment. Before your dentist can recommend surgery for the condition, you must have tried other mild treatment options like medication and therapy.

     4. What happens when TMJ disorder is left untreated?

TMJ disorders may be an indication of more serious issues. Therefore, you should not ignore them. Instead, you should seek immediate dental care. Your dentist will assess your condition to determine whether you have TMJ or another oral health complication. When TMD is left untreated, it can cause persistent pain and discomfort. This can affect your quality of life.

     5. Can a TMJ Disorder Be treated?

TMJ disorders are a result of numerous factors. Some of the causes of the condition could include a poor lifestyle and posture. However, the condition may be a result of a chronic disease like arthritis. Treatment for TMJ disorders is aimed at minimizing the impact of the symptoms. Within weeks or months of treatment, you may experience relief from your symptoms.

     6. How can I prevent the recurrence of TMJ disorders?

Sometimes, the causes of TMD are unavoidable. However, you can use these ways to reduce your risk of developing the disorders:

  • Wear a mouthguard when you sleep. If you grind or clench your teeth when you sleep, consider using a mouth guard to prevent this habit.
  • Wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports. An injury to your jaw is another factor that could increase your chances of developing TMJ disorders. Therefore, you can protect yourself by wearing a mouthguard when you play vigorous sports.
  • Maintain good posture. Poor posture when you sleep could cause a strain in your jaw muscles, resulting in a TMJ disorder. Therefore, maintaining good posture can help reduce your risk of developing the condition.
  • Avoid stress. Stress can increase the risk of developing TMD. Avoiding stress is a critical lifestyle change that can help avoid the disorder.
  • Limit large jaw movements.
  • Avoid using your teeth as tools.

Find a Competent General Anaheim Dentist Near Me

You may be diagnosed with TMD if you have a complication with your temporomandibular joint. The symptoms of TMJ disorders include pain and stiffness of face muscles, changes in jaw alignment, headaches, and limited jaw motion. The type of symptom you will experience will depend on the cause and severity of your condition. Sometimes, the symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders could resolve without treatment or with slight home remedies.

However, if your condition is a result of a long-term chronic illness like arthritis, you may need more extensive treatment. This could include medication to reduce the symptoms, physical therapy, or surgery in severe cases. Even after treatment for the condition, your dentist will recommend a lifestyle change to avoid the recurrence of TMJ disorders.

The diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders will require you to consult with a knowledgeable dentist. This helps rule out other dental conditions before starting a treatment plan for TMD. If you or a loved one seeks safe, reliable, and affordable dental services in Anaheim, CA, you will benefit from our expertise at Beach Dental Care Anaheim. Call us today at 714-995-4000 to book an appointment.