TMJ Treatment in Whitehouse

Considering the many essential functions it performs and the complexity of its internal mechanics, it is surprising that the jaw’s temporomandibular joint doesn’t develop serious issues more often. We all rely on this vital joint to speak, chew, smile and engage the world around us in innumerable ways.

When its function begins to break down, it is something that cannot be ignored. Pain is one reason, and also the fact that problems with the joint will not improve on their own.

Understanding TMJ

A particular type of joint failure is known as TMJ, and sometimes also TMJD or TMD. It is characterized by chronic pain that is severe, and often triggered by life stress. Because of this link to emotional reactions, TMJ has at times been dismissed as a condition that exists in the mind, not the joint. The fact that specific causes have sometimes been difficult to pinpoint, and that treatment can have mixed results, added to this impression that TMJ was not real. Most medical professional have moved beyond that perspective, and believe treatment should not be delayed when the condition presents itself.

Causes and Symptoms

Over the years, the list of possible causes has grown to include bruxism (grinding of the teeth), injury that causes dislocation, infections, scar tissue, autoimmune disease and inherited disorders. There is a complex interplay between symptoms and a patient’s daily environment. For example, daily stress can lead to bruxism, which places physical stress on the joint.

TMJ does not always remain localized. Pain can be felt throughout the face, ears, neck and shoulders. It may be accompanied by a feeling that the joint is clicking or popping while chewing, locking of the jaw or trouble opening the mouth fully. Changes in a patient’s bite may also occur, along with recurring headaches, earaches, swelling of the face and even heightened tooth sensitivity.

Although TMJ may cause changes in the bite, known as malocclusion, the opposite is also true: When a patient’s bite changes as a result of other factors, such as movement of teeth, the jaw struggles to maintain its normal function, and the temporomandibular joint no longer fits properly in its socket. In this case, orthodontic treatment can be an important way to restore function and eliminate painful symptoms.

Treatment Choices

Dentists and their patients have many other treatment options to explore. At the least invasive end of the spectrum are stress management and physical therapy for jaw muscles. Nighttime appliances such as mouth guards can also help adjust and support the joint. Ultrasound and corticosteroid injections can also be effective. Moving up the scale of invasiveness, arthrocentesis is sometimes tried. With this procedure, a needle is used to clear out the joint, removing any substances that are preventing normal function.

Surgical options also exist, although they are typically recommended only in severe cases, such as when the jaw locks. Arthroscopic procedures can help evaluate and repair joints. When these repairs are done with open-joint surgery, the procedure is referred to as arthrotomy. Another type of surgery, condylotomy, focuses on repairing a damaged mandible, which may be affecting the joint.

To learn more about TMJ, or to schedule an appointment, contact Dental Health Associates of Whitehouse today.