TMJ Disorders

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are part of a group of problems that are directly related to your complex jaw joint. If you’ve had symptoms such as pain or a “clicking” sound in your jaw, you’ll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they have been in the past. These symptoms can occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles (muscles of mastication) do not do their jobs correctly when working together. TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint, which is the name for each joint (right and left) that connects your jaw to your skull. Early detection and treatment of TMJ are important since several types of TMJ that go untreated can lead to more serious conditions.

There isn’t one specific kind of treatment that can successfully resolve TMJ disorders completely, and typically, treatment takes a fair amount of time to become fully effective. If you suffer from TMJ, call on Dr. Reisman who can help you have a healthier and more comfortable jaw.

Trouble with Your Jaw

TMJ disorders can develop for several reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, which then makes you tighten your jaw muscles and puts stress on your TM joint. Further, you may have a damaged jaw joint due to a previous injury or disease. Arthritis or some injuries can directly damage the joint or stretch and/or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disk in your jaw, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can then slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include pain, a misaligned bite, a grating or a clicking noise when you open your mouth or trouble opening your mouth wide.

Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?

  • Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
  • Do you often wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
  • Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
  • Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
  • Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
  • Does your jaw click, grate, pop, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
  • Is it painful or difficult to open your mouth, eat or yawn?
  • Have you ever injured your neck, head or jaws?
  • Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with any of your other joints?
  • Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
  • Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
  • Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
  • Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn down?

If you found yourself answering “yes” to a lot of those questions, the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you be more aware of how they are treated.

Treatment

There are various treatment options that Dr. Reisman can use in order to improve the function and harmony of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of a TMJ disorder, Dr. Reisman can then determine the proper course of treatment. It’s important to realize that treatment works best with a team approach of self-care joined with professional care.

Initially, our goals are to relieve the joint pain and muscle spasms that you may be experiencing. Relieving this pain can usually be successfully accomplished with a pain reliever, a muscle relaxant, or an anti-inflammatory drug. Steroids can be directly injected into the joints to reduce the inflammation and pain. Self-care treatments can also be highly effective and can include:

  • Resting your jaw
  • Keeping your teeth apart when you are not eating or swallowing
  • Eating soft foods
  • Applying heat or ice
  • Exercising your jaw
  • Practicing good posture

Biofeedback, physical therapy as well as using a temporary clear plastic apparatus known as a splint can also be used as stress management techniques to help relive pain or discomfort. The splint (or nightguard) can fit over the top or bottom of your teeth and helps to keep your teeth apart, and thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A nightguard is used to help you stop clenching or grinding your teeth and can also help reduce the muscle tension at night by protecting the cartilage and joint surfaces. An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relives pressure on certain parts of your jaw and aids in disk re-positioning. It may be worn 24 hours/day to help your jaw heal more efficiently. An orthotic stabilization appliance is worn 24 hours/day or solely at night to move your jaw into a proper position. Appliances can also help to protect from wear on your teeth.

What About Bite Correction or Surgery

If you’ve noticed that your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit together, you may need treatment such as a bite adjustment (equilibration), restorative dental work, or orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction. There are surgical options available such as arthroscopy and open joint repair restructuring that are sometimes necessary but are typically reserved for more severe cases. Dr. Reisman will not consider doing a TMJ surgery unless the jaw is unable to open, has severe degeneration, is dislocated and nonreducible, or if the patient has undergone an unsuccessful appliance treatment.