Persistent jaw pain related to a temporomandibular joint disorder (also called TMJ) affects the lives of over 10 million people in the United States.
At Le Dentistry & Associates, our dental team offers comprehensive care for TMJ that focus on relieving pain and preventing additional complications. Phuong Le, DMD, and Uyen Hoang, DMD, design treatment plans that accommodate your individual oral health needs.
Our providers offer insight into why you have TMJ pain and explain the available nonsurgical treatment options available to relieve it.
The basics of TMJ
The temporomandibular joints are the two small joints on both sides of your head, located just in front of your ears. Within these joints are discs of protective cartilage that cushion the bones of your joint, so that your jaw can glide smoothly when you move your mouth.
TMJ disorders develop when this cushioning cartilage wears away. The joint bones rub together, resulting in discomfort and pain in your jaw. Other symptoms common with TMJ include:
- Facial pain
- Recurrent headaches
- Pain in or around the ear
- Difficulty with or pain while chewing
Another hallmark symptom of TMJ is an audible clicking or grinding sound when you move your jaw to speak or chew.
If left untreated, TMJ can lead to serious complications. The chronic jaw pain and difficulties moving your jaw joint can affect your ability to swallow, speak, and chew. It can become difficult to control the muscles in your face, and the disorder can also impact your breathing.
Know your risk factors for TMJ
TMJ develops when the disc of cartilage in the joint wears away due to osteoarthritis or when the joint itself is damaged. Trauma to your jaw can move the small joints out of place and increase your risk for TMJ pain.
Other risk factors can increase your chances of developing TMJ, such as:
Our experts confirm that your jaw pain is related to TMJ through a physical exam and a review of your medical history. We customize your treatment plan to treat your existing symptoms and preserve the long-term function of your jaw.
We also work with you to slow down the progression of degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis in your jaw.
Noninvasive TMJ treatment options
Your treatment plan initially focuses on noninvasive, nonsurgical treatments. As many cases of TMJ relate to teeth grinding, we may suggest a night guard that you wear while you sleep. The guard prevents damage caused by grinding and clenching your teeth, so it helps your jaw relax.
Other noninvasive treatment options for TMJ include:
- Pain relievers
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Muscle relaxants
If you have severe TMJ pain and complications like a dislocated jaw, you may need surgery. In this case, we can often use minimally invasive, arthroscopic techniques to correct jaw misalignments and relieve persistent symptoms of TMJ.
TMJ pain doesn’t have to take over your life. Call Le Dentistry & Associates to schedule a TMJ evaluation or book an appointment online today.