Jaw problems are painful and can affect your quality of life in a variety of ways. When you have constant pain in your jaw, persistent headaches, or your jaw pops, you may have a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder that requires a proper diagnosis and solution. At our office, we can help test for this disorder and find the right treatment option for you to prevent further pain and discomfort.
What is TMD?
This disorder affects the jaw muscles and joints that are needed to chew and speak properly. Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is where the part of your skull called the temporal bone meets your mandible. This is the lower jawbone that holds all your bottom teeth in place. Your TMJ allows you to move your jaw side to side as well as up and down. TMD refers to TMJ disorder, when your TMJ is causing you pain.
What are the symptoms?
These are the most common symptoms associated with TMD:
Difficulty opening your mouth widely
Feeling tired in your face
Experiencing tenderness or pain in your teeth, jaw joint area, face, ears, neck, head and/or shoulders
Getting jaws stuck closed or open
Swelling of the sides of your face
Hearing popping sounds when moving your jaw
While these can be symptoms of other issues as well, if the problem is consistent for several weeks, we recommend making an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible to see if you need TMJ treatment.
What are the causes?
There are many different causes of TMJ disorders. The main causes are arthritis, traumatic injuries, bruxism (clenching or grinding your teeth), stress and genetics. The condition often develops in people who overuse their jaw muscles. This occurs when you chew too hard or clench your jaw too often.
How does a dentist test for it?
During your consultation or exam, your dentist will ask about chronic pain and other indicators of this disorder. For a more accurate diagnosis, your dentist may also recommend that you get cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) images of the jaw, X-ray images, MRI tests, and/or CT scans.
Your dentist will review your medical history as well, as there are behavior patterns and health problems that are risk factors for developing TMJ disorders. For example, if some patients have existing diseases, like fibromyalgia or degenerative joint disease, that could raise their risks of having TMJ pain.
What are the treatment options?
Fortunately, there are many treatment options for TMJ disorders. Oftentimes, it depends on what is causing the TMJ pain. A doctor may recommend medication, a corrective device or regular physical therapy. Or, your dentist may suggest altering your diet to include more soft foods. Occlusal splints are recommended for patients who have bruxism, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) treats anxiety and mood disorders that may be additional causes. We reserve recommending invasive surgery for the severest cases, but most patients get relief from other forms of treatment.
What happens if I don’t get my TMD treated?
For some patients, there is temporary pain and swelling that is manageable with pain medications. For chronic pain and discomfort, there may be a larger underlying condition like a severe jaw injury or degenerative joint disease. If TMJ is left untreated, it leads to a worsening of pain and other problems. This condition is rarely life threatening, but if the condition worsens, you will be unable to perform daily function like chewing and talking without discomfort.
For years, Dr. Rigby has treated patients with all sorts of TMJ issues. Sometimes the solutions are simple and quick, while other times they can be a bit more complicated. Whatever the case, we will do all we can to find the perfect treatment plan for you, so you can live without discomfort. If you’re concerned about your TMJ, give our office a call at (330) 752-4068 and we would be happy to set up a consultation for you.
In need of immediate care?
Dr. Rigby provides emergency phone consultation services after working hours and on weekends. Call (330) 666-7800