Temporomandibular (tem-puh-roe-man-DIB-u-lur) joint (TMJ) disorder, or TMJ disorder, is a common condition that causes chronic facial pain. Dental experts usually advise patients to seek treatment for TMJ to avoid complications, such as toothaches and tooth damage. Pain and other symptoms may grow worse with time or interfere with daily life functions.
What Is TMJ?
A temporomandibular joint is located on either side of your face and connects to your lower jaw and skull. The joints enable smooth movement of your jaws when you open or close your mouth, chew, and speak. TMJ occurs when there’s a dysfunction with the joints and surrounding muscles, ligaments, or even the nerves. The dental condition is commonly caused by injury to the disc supporting jaw movement, a misaligned bite, stress on the joints from teeth grinding or clenching, and arthritis.
Signs You May Have TMJ
Common symptoms include jaw pain or tenderness, earaches, difficulty chewing, facial pain, and locked jaws. TMJ can be properly diagnosed by your dentist. The dentist will examine your teeth and jaws and take oral x-rays to diagnose your symptoms. The exam may also reveal issues such as jaw misalignment and teeth grinding (bruxism).
Untreated TMJ Complications
Delaying treatment, for whatever reason, can result in chronic TMJ symptoms as well as the following dental complications:
- Misaligned bite: Temporomandibular joint dysfunction may alter your bite. A misaligned bite leads to added stress on the joint when chewing and may also result in bruxism, damage to orthodontic appliances, or a need for braces.
- Jaw joint damage: Damage to your jaw joint may get worse. Telltale signs include a scraping or popping sound. You may have difficulty opening and closing your mouth, chewing, or pain when eating. Worse yet, your jaws may lock up.
- Toothaches: Added pressure on the jaw from bruxism and a poor bite can cause tooth pain even if there’s no decay or infection.
- Weak teeth: Over time, excessive stress will wear down and weaken the enamel covering your teeth. This makes you more prone to infection, cavities, and tooth loss.
- Chipped, cracked, or broken teeth: Clenching and grinding your teeth not only weakens your pearly whites, but can also cause them to chip, fracture, or break.
- Sleep apnea: TMD is closely associated with obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where breathing repeatedly stops during sleep. Complications include morning headaches, chronic fatigue, and blood pressure or heart problems.
How Our Dentists Treat TMJ Disorder
While TMJ is not a life-threatening disorder, it can reduce your quality of life. Our dentists can help by, first, examining your jaw joints and teeth to make a diagnosis. We’ll then explore treatment options based on the cause and symptoms. Treatments can include:
- Hot/cold packs and medication to relieve jaw aches and pain
- Dental restorative treatments for damaged teeth, such as fillings, dental bonding, caps or crowns, or veneers
- A custom night guard to protect your teeth and jaw from further damage, pain, toothache, and headache caused by teeth grinding
- Surgery (as a last resort, when conservative treatments fail). Our dentists may refer you to an oral surgeon for joint reconstruction or surgical realignment
Early treatment for TMJ disorder helps keep your teeth healthy and strong, lowers the risk of complications or need for surgery, and saves on expensive corrective treatments. Call to schedule a consultation with our dentist.
The Ballas Dental team is experienced and specialized in the treatment of TMJ disorders.