Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder refers to issues affecting the TMJ, the jaw muscles and nerves surrounding it. TMJ disorder is caused by chronic stress on the joint, which can be a result of a misaligned bite, teeth grinding, jaw clenching, or muscle imbalance. A common condition, TMJ disorder can sometimes go undiagnosed. If left untreated, the symptoms and pain associated with the disorder can worsen.
Dr. Wayne Sutton of Sonoma Smiles is an experienced dentist and TMJ specialist. Here, he outlines common symptoms of TMJ disorder as well as treatment options.
Common Signs of TMJ Disorder
Jaw pain. Often times the first indicator of TMJ disorder is pain. This can include stiffness or tenderness throughout the jaw, face, head, neck and/or shoulders.
Difficulty chewing or speaking. Restricted range of motion of the mouth can make it difficult to chew or speak properly.
Locked jaw. Difficulty moving the jaw can lead to it getting locked in the open or closed position.
Popping or clicking sound. Hearing a clicking or popping sound when opening or closing your mouth can be a sign of a misaligned bite and TMJ disorder.
Swelling. Swelling can occur on one or both sides of the face.
Headaches. Headaches and migraines — especially those that occur first thing when you wake up — can be caused by TMJ disorder.
Earaches. Earaches, tinnitus (i.e., ringing of the ears) or other hearing problems may also be signs of TMJ disorder.
Misaligned bite. Upper and lower teeth that do not align properly can be both a sign and cause of TMJ disorder.
Tooth wear and toothaches. Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, which are common causes of TMJ disorder, can put an immense amount of stress on your teeth, in turn causing them to wear out, crack or fracture. This can increase your risk of dental issues, including decay.
Treating TMJ Disorder
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with a medical or dental practitioner like Dr. Sutton. Diagnosing TMJ disorder requires a physical examination, an evaluation of symptoms, digital imaging (such as X-rays) and tests to determine the root of the problem.
Treatment for TMJ disorder varies by cause and severity of symptoms. For mild pain and symptoms, Dr. Sutton may recommend making simple lifestyle changes such as eating soft foods and limiting excessive jaw movement. For inflammation, medication and stretching exercises can help.
Other treatment options include wearing an oral appliance, such as an oral splint, or bite guard at night. Such appliances help keep the teeth in proper alignment and prevent teeth from grinding and clenching. Orthodontic treatment to adjust the bite may also be needed.
The first step towards TMJ pain relief is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Sutton. Upon evaluating your symptoms, our dentist can recommend a customized treatment plan for you. Contact Sonoma Smiles by calling (707) 585-2555, or email our office today.
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(All photos of actual patients)