TMJ disorders overview

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder – commonly known as TMJ but medically referred to as TMD – is a condition affecting a wide variety of people and is often caused by stress. TMJ symptoms can be debilitating, interfering with every day life and preventing sound sleep.

TMJ symptoms can include

 
  • lockjaw or jaw popping
  • jaw pain
  • teeth grinding or bruxism
  • severe headaches
  • neck, shoulder, and back pain
  • intermittent ringing in the ears
 

The vast majority of TMJ sufferers are unaware that the root cause of these problems is something that a dentist can effectively treat. The comfort and general well being of the patient is at the heart of our dental practice, so pain relief is the first consideration of the dentist. The dentist is able to test, diagnose, and devise an immediate plan to treat the underlying causes of the TMJ disorder.

Reasons for treating TMJ disorders

TMJ sufferers report that their symptoms generally worsen during periods of prolonged or unexpected stress, and that intense outbreaks of the condition can lead to neck pain and dizziness. The most common cause of TMJ is stress, which can exacerbate the problems associated with the misalignment of the teeth. It is possible for the dentist to realign or adjust the teeth without the need for painful or expensive surgeries. The realignment/adjustment may alleviate the pounding headaches, the jaw pain, and the dizziness.

The grinding teeth symptom, also known as Bruxism, is particularly common and usually occurs at night. The grinding will eventually erode the structure of the teeth and lead to much more severe dental problems in the future. Untreated TMJ is one of the prime underlying factors in eroded joints in the jaw and loose teeth. Jaw pain can also radiate out to other areas around the jaw, head, neck, and even your shoulders and back.

It is important for anyone experiencing TMJ symptoms to visit a specially trained dentist for an exact diagnosis.

TMJ treatment

Mouth guard for treatment of TMJ pain

Because TMJ is caused and intensified by stress, a properly trained dentist should take a holistic view of the patient. Hence, treatment can include your dentist working with you to help reduce the stress in your life and improving your health hygiene. Besides understanding your stress and sleep patterns, the dentist will thoroughly examine the jaw area as well as your neck, shoulders, back and any other areas that might be affected. The dentist will look at the patient’s bite, take x-rays, and review the patient’s history in order to make an accurate diagnosis and recommend necessary treatment.

Once a firm diagnosis is attained, there are several ways in which relief can be provided. The first line of treatment is to use a custom-fit bite guard to protect against teeth grinding during the night. Splints can also help align the patient's jaw, allowing it to stabilize in a proper resting position.

A bite relationship analysis may also be recommended by the dentist for the purposes of realignment. Realignment involves adjusting the relationship between how the upper teeth come together with the lower teeth, alleviating TMJ symptoms. As a last alternative, the dentist is also able to prescribe muscle relaxants.

The good news is that TMJ disorders can be fixed and you no longer have to suffer from the headaches, jaw pain, teeth grinding and other symptoms that result from them.

Dr. Hwang has gotten me through a very difficult time with TMJ and is a wonderful dentist in every way. The best.
— Lisa H.
 
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