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TMJ Disorders

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint.  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 injury or disease.  Sometimes, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position.  Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, or grating noise when you  open your mouth or have trouble opening your mouth wide.

Treatment

There are various treatment options that can be utilized to improve the harmony and function of your jaw.  Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of a TMJ disorder, a proper course of treatment will be determined.  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 muscle spasm and joint pain.  This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, or muscle relaxant.  Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:

Stress management techniques are recommended.  At times you will be referred to a Physical Therapist, or to your dentist to fabricate a temporary, clear plastic appliance known as a splint.  A splint (or night guard) 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 splints used for different purposes.   A night guard will help you stop clenching or grinding your teeth and reduces muscle tension at night and helps protect the cartilage and joint surfaces.

Surgical options are sometimes needed, but are reserved for severe cases.  TMJ surgery is not considered unless the jaw can’t open, is dislocated and non-reducible, has severe degeneration, or the patient has undergone appliance treatment unsuccessfully.




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