Island Dental blog

Treatment Options for TMJ Disorders

Your temporomandibular joints (TMJ), are the place where your mandible, or lower jaw, meets your skull. They allow you to move your jaw up and down and side to side and provide a cushion for your teeth. TMJs are complex, and when they don't work the way they're supposed to, they cause problems, which should prompt you to call your Marco Island dentist for help.  

Several disorders affect the TMJs and their associated muscles, nerves, and ligaments. As you age, many of the joints and joints tend to get worn down, and if your jaw muscles are weak, your teeth may start to shift and rub together, which can lead to pain.  

This is a common disorder that affects older people, but anyone can have it. The condition is caused by changes in the joint and bone structure of the jaw caused by overuse, and it can cause the joint to become dislocated or stiff and painful.

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TMJ Disorders: Symptoms and Treatment Options  

What are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorders?  

The most common symptoms of TMJ disorders (TMD) include pain in the jaw joint and pain or clicking of the jaw joint while opening and closing. People with TMJ disorders can have difficulty chewing or may grind or clench their teeth because of pain.  

They may sleep with their mouths open, which can also cause bad breath. Other symptoms may include limited movement and jaw stiffness after waking or when eating. They may have facial pain or headaches and pain in the neck or shoulders.

Therapies

The first option that your dentist will tell you about is to undergo therapies. This can include massaging the area or wearing a mouthguard.  

Physical Therapy  

Physical therapy involves improving your range of motion and range of motion exercises, as well as massaging and stretching your jaw muscles to keep them in good health. Physical therapy can improve how your jaw joints work by strengthening your muscles and improving how you move your jaw.

You will also be taught how to avoid clenching or grinding your teeth. Physical therapy is best for people who have mild to moderate TMJ disorders.  

Oral Splints or Mouth Guards  

If you have a severe TMJ disorder, wearing a mouth guard or an oral splint for a few hours every day can help. In general, the oral splint is a custom-fitted splint that fits over your jaw, which is an effective way of protecting your teeth and jaw from injury. It helps keep your jaw in the proper position.  

Medications

If the disorder is causing pain that is keeping you up at night or impeding your daily tasks, your dentist may prescribe medications. Be sure to follow your dentist’s suggestions in terms of dosage to avoid unwanted problems.

Pain Relievers

If pain is a major symptom of your TMJ disorder, you can use prescription pain relievers. These medications work by blocking the pain and allowing your jaw to relax. However, they are only effective for about 4 to 6 hours and should not be used more than 3 to 4 times a week. Your dentist may also prescribe other medications such as anti-inflammatories.

Muscle Relaxants

Muscle relaxants are used to relieve pain, relax your muscles, and make it easier to sleep. But because they only work for a short period, you should not use them for more than one week at a time. The muscle relaxants that your doctor prescribes are usually pain relievers that are not habit-forming.  

They generally work to relax your jaw muscles by reducing pain, relaxing your jaw, and relaxing your face. Muscle relaxants can be found over the counter or by prescription.

Surgical Procedures

Surgical procedures may be necessary if your TMJ disorder is severe and not controlled by medicines and physical therapy. In most cases, the surgery will be used only if all other treatments have been tried and have not worked.

TMJ Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy or arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgery used to treat TMJ disorders. The doctor will look inside the joint during this procedure using an endoscopic camera. This allows the doctor to observe any tissue causing the joint to become misaligned.

The doctor can then remove damaged tissue or perform other treatments as needed. This procedure is usually done while a person is under general anesthesia.

Modified Condylotomy

This procedure is usually done in conjunction with TMJ arthroscopy. In this procedure, the surgeon removes a small piece of bone from the side of the joint to enlarge the joint space. This allows the joint to reopen and allows the patient to move more easily. The surgeon performs this surgery under general anesthesia.  

You can expect some swelling, bruising, and pain for about 3 to 4 weeks following the surgery. The swelling and bruising should resolve independently after a week, but the soreness may last for up to 3 months. You will need to maintain a home exercise program to strengthen your jaw muscles for several months after surgery.

You will need to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activity for several weeks after undergoing this procedure.  

Open Joint Surgery

This procedure is used when an injury has pushed parts of the joint into a position that is causing pain or dysfunction. In this type of surgery, the doctor makes an incision in the skin to expose the joint. The doctor removes the damaged structures and reshapes the joint to allow for a more balanced position using surgical instruments.  

This procedure may be performed in one or several surgeries. The surgery is usually done if all other treatments have not worked. You may need to avoid certain activities or have physical therapy for several weeks after surgery. You may also need to wear a mouth guard for several weeks to protect the joint.  

After the surgery, you may feel some pain and swelling and may need to take pain medication. It may take several weeks for the pain to ease. You will be able to resume your usual activities after about three months. The doctor may want to perform a post-surgical checkup at this time to ensure that the joint is moving and working properly.  

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Contact Your Marco Island Dentist for the Best Advice  

TMJ disorders can be complicated, especially when the pain and discomfort don't go away after taking all necessary medications and performing self-therapies. When symptoms continue after you have exhausted everything, it could be time to visit your dentist again and discuss other possible treatment options.

While surgical procedures may be the best treatment option available for you, they can mean more risks than their less invasive counterparts. Therefore, it would be best to seek medical advice from your trusted dentist to guide you to an educated decision.  

If you are experiencing pain and discomfort with your temporomandibular joint and need help with it, give us a call at Island Paradise Dental.

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