TMJ dysfunction is how a dentist refers to an issue with the temporomandibular joints. TMJ dysfunction is an uncomfortable and potentially debilitating disorder, often accompanied by pain and difficulty moving the jaw. Those who believe they may have this disorder or who have recently been diagnosed often have many questions. Understanding TMJ dysfunction is important to obtaining a safe and effective treatment.
The symptoms of TMJ dysfunction
It is important to understand that TMJ dysfunction may be accompanied by any number of symptoms. Patients should not assume their condition is not serious just because they do not experience specific problems.
The most common symptom is pain in the face, jaw and ear region or even the neck and shoulders. Additionally, sufferers may have difficulty opening the jaw, and it may lock. There may also be clicking sounds while opening and closing the jaw. Further symptoms include teeth grinding, swelling, tooth or ear aches or difficulty chewing.
Who gets TMJ dysfunction?
Patients often wonder how to determine if they are at risk for TMJ dysfunction. Unfortunately, it is indiscriminate, although it is twice as likely to occur in women. As bruxism (teeth grinding) is a risk factor and stress is a major cause of bruxism, those with stressful lives may ultimately be more prone to developing TMJ dysfunction.
Diagnosing TMJ dysfunction
If a person is suffering from any of these symptoms, a visit to the dentist can result in a concrete diagnosis. The dentist will observe the jaw, listen for sounds and apply pressure to determine points of pain. An X-ray, CT scan or MRI may be necessary to verify the presence of TMJ dysfunction.
Preventing TMJ dysfunction
Another common concern is if anything can be done to prevent TMJ dysfunction. In general, the same practices that mitigate TMJ dysfunction may also help prevent development. Avoiding stress, reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption and not leaning on the jaw may all help. However, the best way to prevent the development of any oral health disorder or disease is to frequently see a dentist.
Treating TMJ dysfunction
Many patients are concerned about how TMJ dysfunction is treated. It may be treated with medication, therapy or surgery. A dentist will determine which treatment type is appropriate based on the severity of the problem.
Medications for TMJ dysfunction
Pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications are commonly used. Muscle relaxants are useful if bruxism is the underlying cause. Less commonly, low doses of tricyclic antidepressants can help prevent grinding.
Therapies for TMJ dysfunction
Mouthguards are the primary therapy in the event of bruxism, although some patients who do not have bruxism also see success by using mouthguards. Physical therapy may be employed to strengthen jaw muscles. Counseling can help modify behaviors that worsen the condition.
Surgeries for TMJ dysfunction
Surgical intervention is not common and only occur when other options fail to provide relief. Corticosteroid and Botox injections may be used to relieve pain. Arthrocentesis is a procedure used to irrigate inflammatory fluids from the joint. Surgery to fix the joint itself is rare and only performed if necessary.
TMJ dysfunction is highly uncomfortable and may interfere with a sufferer’s way of life. However, dentists have the answers to many questions about TMJ dysfunction and can provide relief. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call our office today.
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