Does your jaw lock, click or pop? You might have TMJ Disorder.
If you notice a clicking or popping sound when you open and close your mouth, or you feel pain in your jaw accompanied by headaches and other pains, there could be a problem with your jaw joints.
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect your jaw to your skull and control how your jaw moves when you eat and talk. Problems with these joints can cause pain and discomfort in your jaw, other muscles in your face, or even in your neck and shoulders.
If you think you might have a TMJ Disorder (TMJD), make an appointment with Freedom Dental to talk to our dentists in Melbourne.
What are the symptoms?
TMJ Disorder can have a range of symptoms, and some people experience more than others. You should make an appointment to see your dentist if you have one or more of the following:
- pain or discomfort in your jaw
- difficulty chewing or opening your mouth wide
- clicking, popping or grating sounds when you chew or open your mouth
- locking of the jaw joints when your mouth is open or closed
- headaches, toothaches or pains in your ears, face, neck or shoulders
- ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
- swelling at the back of your jaw
What causes TMJ Disorder?
TMJ problems happen when something interrupts the normal functioning of your jaw joints, such as damage to the cartilage or a disk shifting out of alignment. This can happen for different reasons, such as:
- trauma to your teeth or jaw, such as a sudden blow or whiplash injury
- a misaligned or uneven bite
- arthritis affecting your jaw joints
- teeth grinding or jaw clenching (bruxism), which may be caused by stress
It’s not always possible to determine the cause of TMJ Disorder. However, doing so will help your dentist to recommend the most effective treatment.
TMJD can affect people at all ages, but it’s most common between the ages of 20 and 40 and tends to affect women more than men. TMJD may affect one or both of the temporomandibular joints.
How do we diagnose TMJD?
Our dentists will carry out a full examination to determine whether you have TMJ Disorder or another problem.
We’ll first try to find out what might be causing the problem by asking you questions about your medical and dental history and any lifestyle factors that are often linked to TMJ issues, such as stress. Then we’ll perform a physical exam of your jaw and mouth, checking the range of motion of the joints, listening for unusual sounds when you open and close your mouth, and identifying areas of pain or discomfort.
Some TMJ symptoms may be caused by tooth decay or gum disease, so we’ll also give you a full oral health assessment. This may involve the use of dental x-rays and cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) imaging to give us a more detailed look at your jaw joints.
If your symptoms don’t seem to be related to TMJ or to a dental problem, we’ll refer you to your doctor who may be able to diagnose another underlying cause, such as a sinus problem, arthritis or other joint disorder.
What are the treatment options?
If our dentists diagnose TMJ Disorder, we’ll discuss all the possible treatment options with you so that you can make a decision you’re happy with. We always focus on treating the cause as a priority, but we’ll also try to help you manage the symptoms to reduce your pain and discomfort.
Depending on what’s causing your TMJ problem, we may recommend a home remedy, medication, a dental procedure or alternative therapies.
We recommend going easy on your jaw when you’re suffering from TMJD. Avoid chewing gum and other activities that require opening your mouth wide, such as singing, shouting or yawning. Try to eat soft foods and cut large food into bite-size pieces so you don’t need to chew so much.
If you think your TMJ disorder may be caused by stress, we advise trying to avoid stressful situations as much as possible. We can also recommend practical relaxation techniques that may help you unwind physically and mentally.
Applying a hot or cold compress, ice pack or warm towel to the painful area could relieve discomfort for up to a few hours.
While medication alone may not treat the problem, it can help to relieve the symptoms while you proceed with other treatments. We can recommend the most suitable pain relief and anti-inflammatory medicines or muscle relaxants to help reduce pain, swelling and discomfort.
If your issue is caused by stress or other psychological factors, we’ll refer you to your doctor who may provide you with a prescription for anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication.
If we determine that your TMJ issue is due to an improper bite, we may recommend orthodontic treatment using braces or Invisalign® to help bring your teeth correctly in line.
If the biting surface of your teeth is uneven, we can make your teeth the correct size and shape using porcelain crowns.
If you grind your teeth at night, we can provide a custom-fitted mouthguard or splint to relieve the pressure on your jaw joints.
Some TMJ problems require that the joint is treated directly, which involves surgery. Open-joint surgery to repair or replace a joint is an invasive procedure that’s carried out under general anaesthesia and carries higher risks than other treatments. We’ll make sure you understand what these risks are before you decide to go through with any procedure.
Physical therapy to treat TMJ Disorder can include exercises to help stretch your jaw muscles and treatments such as arthrocentesis, which clears the joint of fluid and debris, electrical nerve stimulation, laser therapy, radio wave therapy or ultrasound.
In some cases, we may suggest alternative medicine such as acupuncture or biofeedback to help you manage pain and discomfort, or counselling services if you feel you would benefit from talking to someone about stress and other problems you’re dealing with that may be linked to your TMJD.
Want to know more about the TMJ treatments we offer at Freedom Dental?
Get all the answers you need and meet our friendly team by scheduling an information session or calling us on 1300 U SMILE (437 333).
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.