If you feel a clicking or popping in your jaw every time you open and close your mouth, it might be due to tightness in the temporomandibular (TMJ) muscle group. This hinge-like joint connects the jaw to the skull and controls jaw movement.
What exactly is TMJ disorder?
TMJ disorder (or TMD) is an umbrella term for irregularities in the temporomandibular joint. Over 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ disorders, and the disorders are more common in women than men. TMJ disorders can make the jaw feel tight or in pain.
What causes TMJ disorders?
For many patients, the cause of TMJ disorders is a medical mystery. Possible reasons are not well-proven but may include one or a combination of the following:
- Bruxism (tooth grinding)
- Orthodontic treatments (like braces)
- Misalignment and asymmetry of the jaw
- Certain lifestyle choices (poor diet and lack of sleep)
- Trauma and dislocations
- Autoimmune diseases
- Arthritis (joint inflammation that causes discomfort and stiffness)
- Bad posture (curving the spine)
- Long-lasting structural issues
How is TMJ diagnosed?
Because TMJ disorders are so complex, signs, symptoms, and severity differ from person to person. Here are some common symptoms that patients with TMJ disorders share:
- Popping and clicking in the jaw joint
- Frequent headaches, especially in the morning or after a stressful event
- Worn down teeth and receding gumlines
- Indigestion and difficulty chewing
How are TMJ disorders treated?
Sometimes, mild TMJ disorders can be self-treated through stress management or over-the-counter medication. Dental professionals help relieve pain and correct issues in the TMJ through both surgical and nonsurgical means. Oral surgeons must figure out the cause of your specific TMJ discomfort before prescribing a treatment.
Nonsurgical techniques are usually the first step in TMJ treatment. They focus on bite management to alleviate pressure on the joints, reduce tension in the muscles, and keep oral structures aligned.
- Stress management techniques: Many people clench their jaw and stress their TMJ when under stress. Practicing stress management techniques (such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises) may help temporarily relax the TMJ.
- Over-the-counter medication: NSAIDs (like ibuprofen) can alleviate mild discomfort associated with TMD.
- Orthodontic treatment: Even though braces can cause TMJ disorders, they can also help relieve symptoms by fixing a misaligned bite.
- Occlusal splint therapy: Dentists commonly recommend removable, plastic splints that cover either the upper or lower teeth. This splint alters the bite and jaw positions and is typically the first step to multi-step occlusal rehabilitation.
- Occlusal rehabilitation: Dentists may apply restorative fillings or prosthetics (such as crowns, bridges, or partial dentures) to increase the integrity and function of dental arches.
TMJ surgery is recommended for patients with the most severe cases of TMJ so that oral surgeons can directly access and treat rigid or disordered connective tissue.
- Arthroscopic treatment: This keyhole surgery allows oral surgeons to see inside the TMJ with a tiny camera. This allows the doctor to identify the cause and treat the problem in a single surgery.
- Reconstructive jaw surgery: Oral surgeons modify the jaw tissue to correct bite and jaw irregularities.
Contact Us Anytime
Patients in Colleyville, TX and surrounding areas can receive expert TMJ care and surgery at Texas Oral Surgery Specialists. Call our office at (817) 552-3223 or contact us online to request an appointment with Dr. Chris L. Tye.