What is TMJ?
If you find yourself grappling with persistent pain near your ear, jaw, or the muscles on the side of your face, often accompanied by a clicking sound or limited jaw movement, you might be experiencing symptoms of TMD (Temporomandibular Disorders). It is a common misconception to refer to this condition as TMJ, which is actually the abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint itself. Everyone has a TMJ, but not everyone has TMD. At Gary Belenski, DDS, we specialize in providing top-notch TMJ treatment to alleviate your discomfort.
TMD encompasses a range of conditions that involve pain and dysfunction of the TMJ and the muscles surrounding it. Identifying the exact cause of these symptoms can be challenging, but the silver lining is that many TMD cases can be resolved with conservative home remedies. It is crucial to explore all reversible remedies before considering irreversible solutions such as surgery or bridgework.
Understanding the complexity of the TMJs, which facilitate three-dimensional movement, is key in diagnosing the issue. These joints connect your lower jaw to the temporal bone of your skull, cushioned by a disk in between. The problem could stem from any part of this system: the disk, the muscles, or the joint itself. If you're experiencing TMJ pain, a detailed examination can help pinpoint the problem area and suggest the appropriate remedy.
Causes of TMJ Disorder
The TMJ can suffer from various orthopedic issues including inflammation, sore muscles, strained tendons, and ligaments, and disk problems. Factors such as genetics, gender, age, and both physical and psychological stress can influence TMD. In some instances, TMJ pain might be a symptom of a broader medical condition like fibromyalgia.
Signs and Symptoms of TMJ / TMD
A significant portion of individuals with TMD report hearing clicking, popping, or grating sounds emanating from the TMJ when they open or close their mouth. This is generally due to a shift in the disk inside the joint. While clicking alone isn't a major concern, if it is accompanied by pain or restricted jaw movement, it signals TMD.
TMJ symptoms often include muscle pain in the cheeks and temples, where the primary jaw-closing muscles are situated. If you wake up feeling sore and stiff, it might be due to nighttime teeth clenching or grinding. A custom-made nightguard can alleviate this, reducing pressure on your jaw joints and allowing your muscles to relax.
Pain originating from one or both jaw joints is technically termed as arthritis of the TMJ. While there is no cure for arthritis, certain medications can help manage the symptoms.
Alleviating TMJ Pain through TMJ Treatment
After a thorough examination, we can devise a TMJ treatment plan to manage your condition and alleviate your pain. Simple strategies such as adopting a softer diet, applying ice or moist heat, and gentle stretching exercises can offer relief. In some cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and muscle relaxants might be recommended.
Additional TMJ Treatment Alternatives
For severe cases of TMD, more comprehensive TMJ treatment approaches might be necessary, including orthodontics, dental restorations, or minor joint procedures. Major surgeries are rarely required, and it is always recommended to exhaust all conservative, reversible treatments first, as they often prove effective.