The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is responsible for the proper functions of chewing, speaking, and anything that involves opening and closing the mouth. This complex system is made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and muscles. The improper function of the temporomandibular joint may be due to bruxism, infection, physical injury, arthritis, or autoimmune diseases. When the TMJs don’t work together properly, these several symptoms may appear:
- Clicking and/or popping while chewing, yawning, or speaking
- Pain on one side or both sides of the skull near the ears
- Recurrent headaches in the morning or evening
- Tightness around the head, face, or neck
- Worn teeth, broken fillings, receding gums, and/or chipped teeth
- Frequent indigestion or difficulty chewing food thoroughly
- Grinding or clenching teeth at night or during the day
There are several treatment methods for TMJ disorder, but the most severe cases require TMJ surgery. Continue reading to learn when surgery is necessary and what other treatments are available.
When TMJ Surgery Is Necessary
In some cases, an oral surgeon may recommend non-surgical methods to reduce the pressure and tension on the joints and muscles of the jaw. Unfortunately, these treatment methods aren’t always enough.
Your oral surgeon will likely recommend TMJ surgery you experience any of the following:
- Consistent, pain or tenderness when opening or closing the mouth
- Inability to open or close the mouth completely
- Trouble eating and/or drinking
- Pain or immobility that gets worse over time
- Structural problems or diseases
A good oral surgeon should try conservative treatment methods before suggesting surgical methods. The oral surgeon should also thoroughly examine your mouth and jaw and x-ray or MRI to determine the exact issue in your jaw joint.
Here are some reasons your oral surgeon would advise against TMJ surgery:
- You only experience mild TMJ symptoms.
- Your symptoms aren’t consistent.
- You can completely open and close your jaw.
If you’re concerned that TMJ surgery may not be the best treatment for you, visit another oral surgeon for a second opinion.
Conservative Treatment Methods
Many oral surgeons take a “less is often best” approach when treating TMJ disorder. Don’t be surprised if some simple lifestyle changes are recommended as a first line of treatment. These include:
- Eating softer foods
- Not chewing gum
- No biting fingernails
- Using heat packs for pain
- Practicing relaxation techniques to reduce jaw tension
If these changes don’t produce results, the oral surgeon may recommend one of the following treatments:
- Orthodontic treatment: TMJ disorder is often triggered by bite issues. This results in jaw pain, bruxism, and clenching. Braces properly align teeth and correct any bite issues that are causing you pain.
- Occlusal splint therapy: These devices are designed for people who grind their teeth or experience pain and dysfunction due to TMJ disorder. The splints are made specifically for each patient and guide the jaw as it moves. It also protects the teeth from harmful habits.
- Occlusal rehabilitation: An oral surgeon may recommend a removable oral appliance to help correct your bite and improve your jaw movement
Is TMJ surgery right for you?
To determine the best solution to relieve your TMJ pain, meet with an experienced and trusted oral surgeon today. Dr. Chris Tye will only suggest TMJ surgery when it is absolutely necessary. Call our office today at (817) 592-6967 to schedule an initial consultation.