Do you think you may be suffering from TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder)? TMJ is a bite problem. In other words, it has to do with how your teeth come together when your jaws are closed. A misaligned bite is known as malocclusion, and must be corrected for your pain to go away.
TMJ dysfunction (also called TMD) can have several causes. The misaligned bite can be inborn, caused by airway obstructions or allergies in infants; it can be caused by injury to the jaw joint; or it can be caused by misshaped and misaligned teeth. In turn, these problems can cause chronic teeth grinding or clenching, which again worsens the jaw problem by increasing tension in the muscles, ligaments and bones. When the muscles become affected by the accompanying inflammation, pain sets in.
TMJ has many symptoms, which can range from a clicking sound when you open and close your jaw to extreme headaches to tingling in the fingers. For comprehensive testing of your jaw joint and associated muscles, please call (714) 385-1672 to schedule an initial neuromuscular evaluation with Dr. Joseph Henry.
It's important that you ask an experienced dentist to investigate possible TMJ symptoms. Because the condition involves tension in the muscles around the jaw joint, which is just in front of each ear, TMD can sometimes be misdiagnosed as ear problems, or vice versa.
Once Dr. Henry has determined that you have TMD, he will decide on the best treatment, based on the severity of your condition.
The first step is to relieve pain. Dr. Henry will use a device called a TENS unit, designed to relax the muscles surround the jaw, in the head, neck, and shoulders, that applies mild electrical currents to areas on the head, neck and shoulders. After about half an hour of this relaxing treatment, the jaw will be relaxed and the pain gone. This relaxed jaw position is the correct one, and Dr. Henry will measure and record it.
The second step is based on information gathered in the first step as to your correct jaw position. Muscles need to be retrained so that your jaw can always be in its correct position. Dr. Henry might make an orthotic for you, which you can wear at all times until the jaw muscles are accustomed to their new positions and movements.
A further step might be some reconstructive dentistry. Since TMJ is a malocclusion problem, and the incorrect bite could be caused by mismatched and misaligned teeth, corrective work on the teeth can help correct the bite, which will relax the area and remove pain. Examples of reconstructive dentistry are:
Each case is different, and treatment is always customized.
Manage Your TMJ Pain While You Wait for Treatment
Before getting treatment, or before treatment is complete, you may find relief from TMJ symptoms by:
- Taking over-the-counter painkillers found in any supermarket or drugstore. Choose one that will reduce swelling and inflammation as well as block pain.
- Applying a cold or hot compress to relieve the stress on the jaw muscles.
Though these temporary remedies certainly help alleviate the discomfort caused by TMJ symptoms, it's best to have a well-trained neuromuscular dentist examine you in order to properly diagnose and treat it.
If you think neuromuscular dentistry may relieve your pain, please email or call our office in Orange County today at (714) 385-1672 to schedule your initial TMJ evaluation. We serve patients throughout the Fullerton, Anaheim, and Orange areas.