TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to the complex jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a “clicking” sound, you’ll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. These symptoms occur when the jaw joints and the chewing muscles (muscles of mastication) do not work together correctly. TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint, which is the name for each joint (right and left) that connects your jaw to your skull. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important.
No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely. Usually, treatment takes time to become effective. Dr. Nickel, Dr. Steinberg & Dr. Nick see many patients with TMJ dysfunction. They may be able to help you have a healthier and more comfortable jaw.
Trouble With Your Jaw?
TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to previous injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disc, which is made of fibrous tissue and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite locking, pain, clicking or grating noise when you open your mouth or trouble opening your mouth wide.
- Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?
- Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
- Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
- Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
- Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
- Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
- Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
- Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat or yawn?
- Have you ever injured your neck, head or jaws?
- Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
- Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
- Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
- Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
- Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?
The more times you answered “yes,” the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they are treated.
TMJ Surgery Overview
For a brief narrated overview of the TMJ surgery process, please click the image below. It will launch our flash educational MiniModule in a separate window that may answer some of your questions about TMJ surgery.
There are various treatment options that Dr. Nickel and Dr. Steinberg can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, Your doctor will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care joined with professional care.
The initial goals are to relieve the muscle spasm and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant. Steroids can be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:
- Resting your jaw
- Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
- Eating soft foods
- Applying ice and heat
- Exercising your jaw
- Practicing good posture
Stress management techniques such as biofeedback or physical therapy may also be recommended, as well as a temporary, clear plastic appliance known as a splint. A splint or nightguard fits over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep your teeth apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A nightguard may help you stop clenching or grinding your teeth and reduces muscle tension at night and helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. Appliances also help to protect from tooth wear due to heavy grinding.
Temporomandibular Joint Replacement
Similar to procedures for hip and knee replacement, the temporomandibular joint can also be surgically replaced by a prosthetic joint. This surgery is reserved for certain situations. Occasionally when a temporomandibular joint is severely damaged from prior trauma or arthritis the function of the jaw is compromised. In these cases, the TMJ can be surgically replaced with a prosthetic joint. Dr. Nickel and Dr. Steinberg use advanced technology and the best materials available in this type of surgical procedure to help improve jaw function.