You may have heard someone say they “have TMJ” or “lock jaw.” They are actually referring to a wide range of dysfunctions that affect the temporomandibular joints which are often simply called the TMJ. These small joints enable your every smile, yawn, conversation, and meal. When the TMJ are damaged, the smallest interaction can be painful. If you believe you’re suffering from TMJ dysfunction or you’ve previously been diagnosed with this disorder and you want to find out more, call the skilled Wildwood Crest dentist and dentistry team at Diamond Beach Dental today. We offer diagnosis and personalized treatment planning for patients suffering from TMJ dysfunction. We’ll evaluate your current TMJ function and help you determine the best way to improve your jaw movement and comfort.
TMJ dysfunction is a disorder that occurs when the tiny joints connecting the jaw to the skull bone are strained, overused or damaged. In some cases, this causes little to no change in jaw movement, and patients are able to lead relatively normal lives, but in severe cases, TMJ dysfunction can cause seriously impeded movement. In the worst cases, patients may be unable to move their mouth without experiencing severe pain.
In most cases, we diagnose TMJ based on patients’ complaint of experiencing some of the following symptoms:
When patients complain of one or more of these symptoms, we will visually examine the oral and facial structures during movement. We will then feel the movement of the joints and listen for any sounds as the mouth opens and closes. If we think you may be suffering from TMJ dysfunction, we’ll likely want to capture a series of diagnostic x-ray images to help us determine what may be causing the TMJ to malfunction. We may also ask questions to determine whether or not there are outside factors impacting your TMJ dysfunction. For instance, patients who chew gum constantly may be overworking their TMJ. Those who grind or clench their teeth at nighttime are also putting excessive strain on their jaw joints. Understanding these outside factors can help to guide our treatment planning.
Your TMJ dysfunction therapy plan will be catered to your individual needs. The first goal is to eliminate or at least reduce pain. Then, we’ll work with you to restore your full range of function. Pain relieving steps may include taking anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medications, icing, and jaw stretches. Once you’re able to move your mouth more comfortably, we’ll then continue your treatment to help you achieve the ideal jaw position to allow for comfortable, fluid, unimpeded motion. These treatments may include using nighttime mouthguards to hold the jaw in a comfortable resting position, orthodontic alignment to achieve proper bite position, regular stretching exercises to relieve the strain on the TMJ, and other customized treatments to deliver a perfectly functioning, pain free smile.