TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders relate to problems with your complex jaw joint. Many symptoms, including pain or a clicking sound, characterize these disorders, and it is now easier than ever to diagnose and treat them. However, TMJ disorders are not simple to reverse and require time, several treatments, patience and persistence to be effective.
A TMJ disorder occurs when the jaw joints and chewing muscles are not in sync. Conditions of this kind can lead to more serious problems in the future, so early detection and treatment are very important.
TMJ disorders may stem from habits you have developed over the years or other sustained injuries, including:
- Clenching or grinding your teeth
- Tightening your jaw muscles (this stresses your TM joint)
- Traumatic injury
Any of these can cause the misaligned bite, pain, clicking or grinding you are experiencing. Many of these habits or injuries cause damage to the joint or may stretch or tear the muscle ligaments in unnatural ways.
Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?
Patients with TMJ disorders often experience the following symptoms:
- Persistent habit of grinding or clenching teeth
- Waking up with sore, stiff jaw muscles
- Frequent aching in the head or neck
- Increased pain upon clenching teeth; increased clenching with stress
- Clicking, popping, grating, catching or locking of the jaw joint when opening the mouth
- Pain upon eating, opening the mouth or yawning
- Neck, head or jaw injury
- Arthritis in other joints
- Bite misalignment
- Inability to tear food with front teeth
- Sensitive, loose, broken or worn teeth
TMJ disorders are not easily treated and less easily cured, but modern medical advancements have made major strides in improving TMJ conditions. Dr. Elias will first diagnose your disorder after a comprehensive examination and then propose a treatment plan. You and he will work closely together to improve your condition and relieve muscle spasms and joint pain.
If you notice any of the symptoms of TMJ disorders, there are some self-care treatments you can try at home. They include:
- Actively resting your jaw
- Avoiding hard, chewy or sticky foods
- Avoid clenching by keeping your teeth apart when you are not using your mouth
- Applying heat and ice as needed
Other treatments that have been successful in managing TMJ disorders include physical therapy, stress management or the use of a night guard to stop clenching.
Bite Correction or Surgery
If your TMJ disorder has affected your bite, you may need to undergo treatment ranging from bite adjustment to orthodontics paired with jaw reconstruction. Surgical options are sometimes needed but only in the most severe cases. Dr. Elias does not recommend TMJ surgery unless absolutely necessary, when a jaw cannot open, is dislocated, has severe degeneration or has undergone unsuccessful appliance treatment.
If you are suffering from a TMJ disorder, we would love to help you plan your treatment and work toward improved jaw health. Call the Southern California Center for Surgical Arts if you are interested in scheduling a consultation with Dr. Elias to diagnose and treat your TMJ condition.