What Is TMJ Disorder?
Do you suffer from constant headaches? Does it hurt when you close your jaw?
One of the common causes of migraines and jaw pain is temporomandibular joint disorder, which also goes by the acronyms TMJ, TMD, or TMJD.
TMJ usually develops when teeth don’t fit together properly, resulting in a bad bite. This strains your head muscles and temporomandibular joint.
TMJ shows up as jaw, face, neck, or shoulder pain, and tension headaches or migraines.
What Is the Temporomandibular Joint?
Your temporomandibular joint is the ball and socket joint where your jaw and skull connect. It’s located in front of each ear.
The TMJ is the most frequently used joint in the body. It controls common functions like biting, chewing, and talking.
Causes of TMJ Disorder
- Misaligned bite/ occlusion
- Unbalanced dental treatment
- Old dentistry that has broken down or worn out
- Shifting teeth after tooth loss
- Clenching and grinding
- Poor posture
- Trauma/injury to the jaw
- Poor sleep/Sleep apnea
- Poor tongue posture/swallowing
Leaving TMJ Disorder Untreated
Besides causing severe discomfort and pain, untreated TMJ can damage your teeth, jaw, and jaw muscles.
An unbalanced bite causes a war between your jaw muscles and teeth. If the muscles win, your teeth will wear down quickly. If the teeth win, you’ll experience muscle tension, stress, and headaches.
Untreated TMJ disorder can also lead to muscle cramping, sprained ligaments, dislocated and torn discs, and cartilage degeneration.
TMJ disorder can cause irreversible damage if left untreated. Even if your smile looks perfect from the front, discomfort and pain are signs that something is wrong and should be taken seriously.
Do I Have TMJ Disorder?
If you suffer from a few or more of the following symptoms, reach out to your dentist. You may be experiencing TMJ disorder.
Symptoms of TMJ disorder include:
- Pounding headaches
- Persistent face or jaw pain
- Aching neck and shoulders
- Toothaches and temperature sensitivity
- Limited ability to open jaw
- Misaligned bite
- Jaw locking
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Clicking or other sounds
- Abnormal tooth wear
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
- Sleep apnea
TMJ Treatment Options
You have many TMJ treatment options. Here are three of the most common ones.
Sometimes, simple home remedies can stop TMJ in its tracks before it becomes a chronic, debilitating problem.
If your symptoms get worse, stop treatment, and consult a medical professional immediately.
- Rest can give your jaw muscles a break and allow them to heal.
- To minimize the strain on your TMJ, try to keep your teeth apart, lips together, tongue up to the roof of your mouth, and face and jaw relaxed while you breathe in and out through your nose.
- Avoid clenching your jaw during the day.
- Massage can soothe your face, jaw and neck muscles.
- Heat packs can reduce pain by increasing blood flow to cramped and tight muscles.
- Ice packs can help reduce inflammation, numb pain, and promote healing. Apply in 10-15 minute increments.
- A soft food diet will reduce strain on jaw muscles and provide time to heal. Avoid foods that require you to open your mouth wide, close it forcefully, or need to be chewed extensively.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and Tylenol can be used to reduce inflammation and manage pain in the short-term.
Surgery is generally seen as a last resort, and many people prefer less invasive options. Since most pain comes from the muscles, there are many options to relieve your pain without resorting to surgery.
Pain Relievers + Muscle Relaxants
On the other end of the spectrum, pain relievers or muscle relaxants are often prescribed to decrease pain and discomfort. This band-aid approach only masks the pain without curing the underlying issues.
If your symptoms persist, then muscle relaxants and larger doses of anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed to help break the cycle. If the symptoms continue, then the band-aid approach only masks the pain without curing the underlying issues. If you’re relying on a quick fix like painkillers to mask your symptoms, this is usually a sign of a muscular imbalance that needs long-term help.
- A physical therapist or chiropractor can help you manage symptoms and improve TMJ function. You’ll learn exercises to mobilize, stretch, and balance the muscles of your face and neck.
- A physical therapist or chiropractor may also your posture and suggest improvements or ergonomic training.
- An ear, nose, and throat specialist can help you improve your head and neck function.
- A cognitive-behavioral therapist can help with relaxation training and stress management strategies if your TMJ is anxiety-related.
Many people who experience TMJ disorder clench and grind their teeth, causing lasting damage. Your dentist may recommend a bite guard to protect your teeth.
You need a care plan that alleviates your symptoms and addresses the root causes of your TMJ disorder. Your best option? Holistic care, grounded in a neuromuscular approach.
What Is Neuromuscular Dentistry?
If you’ve tried all the options listed above, but the pain persists, it’s time to consider neuromuscular treatment options.
Neuromuscular dentistry is a holistic approach to treating TMJ disorders that focuses on treating the root of the problems instead of masking symptoms.
Neuromuscular dentists consider how your joints, teeth, and bones function and support soft tissue like muscles, tendons and ligaments. The goal? To find your optimal bite and reduce or eliminate TMJ pain while reducing wear and damage on your teeth.
When you visit our Plymouth office, your dentist will ask about your experience with TMJ symptoms, factors that aggravate and relieve symptoms, and past treatments you’ve tried.
We may also use several different types of technology to help diagnose your TMJ disorder. Then, your dentist will develop a specialized treatment plan to realign your and move your teeth into better positions.
If you suffer from dental anxiety, this doesn’t have to hold you back. Ask the Boger Dental team about sedation options for dental anxiety.
Benefits of Neuromuscular Dentistry
Neuromuscular dentistry allows your dentist at Boger Dental to find the best position for your jaw.
Placing your jaw in a better position can reduce or eliminate jaw pain while also reducing damage and wear to your teeth.
The Stages of Neuromuscular Dentistry at Boger Dental
Stage 1: Temporary Orthotics
After diagnosing your TMJ, your dentist will make a temporary orthotic/night guard designed to eliminate clenching and grinding and TMJ and pain and dysfunction.
You’ll wear this orthotic for a minimum of two months as your mouth adjusts to a new position and your dentist makes additional adjustments to refine your bite.
Stage 2: Bite Stabilization
Once your bite is aligned, your dentist will find a long-term strategy to maintain this bite. There are three main treatment options at Boger Dental:
Long-term Orthotic Wear
Many patients choose to wear the orthotic long-term, either only at night or 24/7. As it wears down, it will have to be replaced every few years (especially if used to eat).
Braces can move the teeth to the position determined by the NM orthotic.
Fillings, crowns, and veneers can be used to construct your bite to a new and improved bite.
What Should You Look for in a TMJ Dentist
Most importantly, you need to find an expert in neuromuscular dentistry. You’ll also want to look for a dentist with a commitment to continuing education and a co-treatment model of care.
What is co-treatment? It’s the idea that your care should be based on a partnership between you and your dentist, not pushed on you without your input. Your dentist brings their expertise to the table, and you bring your first-hand knowledge of your symptoms.
Schedule TMJ Treatment at Boger Dental
At Boger Dental, Dr. Chad Boger is our TMJ specialist.
According to Dr. Boger, “The main benefit of treating TMJ, migraines, headaches, and face pain using neuromuscular dentistry is that you are treating the primary cause of the dysfunction and pain, not masking the symptoms.”