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TMJ Therapy in Gramercy Park

man holding cheek in pain

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your 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 joints of the jaw 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.

Trouble With Your Jaw?

dentists looking at an x-ray

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. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, 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 trouble opening your mouth wide.

Do You Have A TMJ Disorder?

woman holding jaw in pain

  • 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 Treatment

woman receiving treatment for pain in jaw There are various treatment options that Dr. Newman can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder,  Dr. Newman 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.  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 helps you stop clenching or grinding your teeth and reduces muscle tension at night and helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relives pressure on parts of your jaw and aids in disk repositioning. It may be worn 24 hours/day to help your jaw heal. An orthotic stabilization appliance is worn 24 hours/day or just at night to move your jaw into proper position. Appliances also help to protect from tooth wear.

What About Bite Correction Or Surgery?

person holding a mouthguard If your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit together, you may need treatment such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction, or restorative dental work. Surgical options such as arthroscopy and open joint repair restructuring are sometimes needed, but are reserved for severe cases. 

 

TMJ Therapy FAQs

older man in pain holding hands to upper jaw Most people aren’t aware of their TMJ until they start to experience chronic pain on a day-to-day basis. The moment you start to notice discomfort in your jaw or face, difficulty chewing food, or other issues related to your jaw, you’ll want to give our office a call. In the meantime, we’re happy to answer your most common questions related to the TMJ and therapy dedicated to relieving discomfort. Of course, you should also feel free to give our office a call directly if your question is not mentioned.

Does TMJ go away on its own?

In many cases, discomfort caused by the TMJ can go away on its own with regular at-home care. The simple practices mentioned above can go a long way, especially if you are away from our office and cannot get to us in the near future. However, there’s no guarantee that it will go away entirely or for very long, especially if you have a more serious case of TMJ disorder or bruxism. The best thing to do is give our office a call anyway just to make absolute sure if you need professional treatment or not.

What happens if TMJ isn’t treated?

Not only can teeth grinding lead to worn down and even cracked teeth, but the constant discomfort can make it much more difficult to get a good night’s sleep. It’s common for those with TMJ problems to suffer from sleep disturbances or insomnia. It can also lead to depression, negative impacts to your job performance and relationships, and your overall quality of life. Due to its close proximity to the skull, TMJ problems can also lead to dizziness and nausea.

Is ear fullness a sign of TMJ problems?

Often referred as ear pain, ear fullness can be caused by irritation from TMJ disorders. You may also notice ringing in the ears, a symptom caused by tinnitus. Without professional care or regular at-home management, tinnitus can lead to sleep disturbances, irritability or frustration, poor concentration, and chronic pain.

What is the main cause of TMJ flare ups?

While you may not experience the symptoms of TMJ disorder constantly, they can still come and go for weeks and even months on end. Every patient can have their own unique triggers for a TMJ flare up. For example, one of the most common triggers is stress, which can also increase teeth grinding and clenching. However, you may also experience them from overusing your jaw, physical trauma, or following dental work that required you to keep your mouth open for long periods of time.

Is TMJ a dental or medical issue?

Your TMJ issues could be dental or medical depending on the type of treatment you need to resolve your symptoms. For example, an oral appliance like a nightguard could be covered by dental insurance to manage TMJ symptoms, but other treatments like oral splints or jaw reconstruction are more likely to be covered by medical insurance instead.

Gramercy Dental Studio