Are you among the 15 percent of Americans who suffer from some type of chronic facial or jaw pain? If so, you need a TMJ specialist.
Understanding TMJ and TMD
TMJ refers to temporomandibular joint disorder. The temporomandibular joints sit on each side of the head in front of the ears. These joints connect the jaw to the skull and help to make the movements necessary for talking and eating. You may have also heard this termed temporomandibular disorders TMD. This refers to multiple conditions affecting the temporomandibular joints. Like TMJ, it has as many possible causes as it does management options.
If you suffer from the symptoms of TMJ, we can help diagnose the cause. We can also suggest possible TMJ treatment options to help you live pain-free.
Causes of TMJ
The temporomandibular joints and surrounding facial muscles perform complex movements. This joint is actually one of the most complicated in the body. For this reason, you can easily injure or inflame the TM joints.
Cartilage and small discs surround these joints. They work like shock absorbers to provide smooth movement, and there is no one definitive cause of dysfunction. However, several common things can happen. Sometimes, the discs slip out of alignment or begin to erode. Other times, the surrounding cartilage or muscle sustains damage. This causes the jaw joint to become at-risk and chronic pain may develop. The pain could be occasional, cyclical or constant. It can worsen over time if left untreated.
Many things can contribute to TMJ pain:
- Jaw injuries
- Bruxism (commonly called teeth grinding)
- Misalignment of the teeth and jaw
- Frequent heavy lifting
Often, it’s a combination of two or more of these things that lead to chronic symptoms. TMJ pain affects women more often than men, and the conditions are most common between the ages of 20-40.
You may be suffering from TMJ disorder if you frequently experience one or more of the following:
- Pain in your jaw muscles and surrounding areas
- Pain around your ears and facial muscles
- Difficulty or discomfort while chewing or yawning
- Locking jaw joints
- Neck and shoulder aches
- Facial pain or swelling
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Jaw tenderness
- Jaw muscle stiffness
- Grinding, clicking or popping noises when you open or close your mouth
Diagnosing and Treating TMJ
TMJ disorders present differently in each patient. There is no standard test for diagnosis. It’s important to have a dental professional diagnose TMJ, particularly one trained in neuromuscular dentistry like Dr. Perry. He will perform a comprehensive exam to rule out other health issues that could be contributing to or causing your symptoms. (For instance, many cases of sleep apnea are actually related to TMJ. Fibromyalgia is sometimes an underlying cause for TMJ symptoms, too.)
Dr. Perry’s comprehensive exam will allow him to get a full picture of how everything in your mouth is working. This includes your teeth, gums, muscles, bite and joints. He will also take your history. This means he will listen to anything you would like to relate about your pain and discomfort and how it affects you. This allows him to design the very best treatment plan for your individual needs.
TMJ Treatment Options
For most TMJ patients, the symptoms of TMJ will dissipate over time with self-care treatments and TMD therapy you can perform at home. These include:
- Relaxation techniques
- Physical therapy exercises to improve jaw motion
- Moist heat to relax muscles
- Cold packs to reduce swelling
- Night guards to prevent teeth grinding
- Anti inflammatory medications
- Muscle relaxants
Rarely, in-office surgical treatments are necessary for fully relieved pain and discomfort. This occurs in cases of extreme TMJ distress. Surgical treatments include:
- Dental implants to replace one or more missing teeth and stabilize the jaw
- Open joint surgery, where the temporomandibular joint is repaired under general anesthesia
Surgical treatments for TMJ may lead to several days of pain and discomfort due to inflamed tissue. Opening your mouth and chewing may be difficult during this time. However, Dr. Perry is a TMJ specialist. His experienced staff works hard to keep you as comfortable as possible while you heal. As many current patients can attest, Dr. Perry takes a personal interest in each patient’s recovery. He often calls personally to check on patient progress.
Why Choose Dr. Perry?
At Ponte Vedra Family Dentistry, we believe in treating our patients like family. We are committed to providing patients in Ponte Vedra and Jacksonville Beach with exceptional health care. This includes access to all the information you need to determine your best treatment option for TMJ and TMD disorders.
Are you coping with chronic pain due to anxiety about dental treatment? Do simply you feel there is no hope? If so, Dr. Perry and his compassionate, highly-trained team of dental professionals can help. They will put you at ease and answer any questions you have.
You don’t need to suffer needlessly from TMJ disorders or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) pain. There ARE options for pain relief. Call our office today to schedule a consultation. You can begin your journey to the pain-free lifestyle you deserve.