Understanding TMJ Disorders

Common Causes for Temporomandibular Joint Disorders & Treatment Options

What Causes TMJ Disorder?

As many as 35 million Americans are believed to suffer from TMJ. Doctors are still researching to figure out the various causes of these jaw problems, but many risk factors are known. Determining if you have any of these risk factors will help you as you work with a TMJ specialist to determine if your joint is affected.

The causes most typically associated with TMJ include:

  • trauma to the jaw or its cartilage,
  • cartilage damage due to arthritis,
  • erosion of shock-absorbing discs located in the jaw,
  • grinding and clenching your teeth, and
  • stress that causes you to tense up your jaw and facial muscles.

Being able to identify the underlying cause of your problem can be helpful when evaluating TMJ treatment options. Your dentist will ask you screening questions to determine the root cause of your disorder if possible. Be honest when answering these questions so that you can enjoy the best treatment outcome possible.

Common Symptoms Of TMJ

Not everyone who suffers from TMJ has the same symptoms. Remember that TMJ is a shorthand term that describes a variety of issues with the jaw’s joint and muscles. If you suffer even one of these symptoms and it interferes with your daily life, it’s a good idea to see a TMJ dentist.

Patients who suffer from TMJ report that their symptoms include

  • aching pains around or in the ear,
  • pain or tenderness in the jaw,
  • discomfort or difficulty chewing,
  • radiating or aching facial pain,
  • headaches or dizziness,
  • clicking, grating or popping of the jaw,
  • ringing in the ears and
  • locking of the jaw.

If your jaw becomes severely locked over a short period of time, you’ve never suffered other symptoms of TMJ and you’ve been exposed to something that puts you at risk for tetanus, you should see a doctor immediately.

Called TMJ for short, temporomandibular joint disorders are caused by problems with the jaw’s muscles and joints. While dentists haven’t been able to identify all of the underlying mechanisms of TMJ, they are able to diagnose the condition according to a patient’s symptoms and some visible clues. Working with a TMJ dentist to get a proper diagnosis is essential to finding relief and preventing further problems from this sometimes-painful condition.

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. Steroids can be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation.

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Who Suffers from TMJ?

Researchers have discovered that many different types of people suffer from TMJ disorders. Those who are at risk include individuals who’ve suffered trauma that damages their jawbones, jaw muscles or facial muscles. More women than men suffer from TMJ, but doctors aren’t sure why. These disorders can start at any time but most commonly appear between 20 and 40 years of age.

Arthritis in the jaw is one of the most well-known risk factors for these jaw disorders. A TMJ specialist will ask a series of screening questions to try and understand the mechanisms of your problem. It’s important to answer honestly so that your dentist can find your best TMJ treatment options.

Finding Relief from TMJ

Going to a TMJ dentist is the first step in finding relief from this painful disorder. Once your jaw is evaluated, your dentist will work with you to develop a treatment plan that makes sense for your needs. Treatment will depend on the severity of your problem and whether or not you’ve already tried other solutions for your pain and discomfort.

TMJ treatment options represent a wide range from the conservative to the aggressive. Options include

  • pain relievers, muscle relaxers and sedatives that can help relieve and relax your jaw,
  • education and counseling to help you understand what aggravates your pain,
  • physical therapy,
  • splints and bite guards,
  • corticosteroid injections,
  • surgical irrigation of fluid and debris that can cause pain in the jaw, and
  • surgery to repair or replace your temporomandibular joint.

If you or a loved one suffers from a TMJ disorder, there are treatment options that can help. Working with a TMJ specialist from the Carolinas Center For Oral & Facial Surgery TMJ Treatment Center is a great way to find relief from jaw problems and begin the process of healing. Call us today to make an appointment with our friendly, compassionate specialists.