Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a common condition that affects countless individuals; however, many men and women who experience physiological discomfort in the head and neck—such as locked jaw, facial pain, or headaches—are unaware that their tension may be related to malfunction within the muscles and joints of the jaw. If you are contending with aches around your jaw and face, or cannot open and close the mouth without difficulty, a defect in the TMJ may be the root of your symptoms. Bronx dentist Victor Oelbaum, DDS provides evaluations and treatment options for TMJ disorder to help patients find relief from their TMJ pain.
What is TMJ Disorder (TMD)?
TMJ disorder, commonly referred to as TMD, comprises a wide array of issues affecting the jaw joint. As the mechanism of attachment between the jaw and the rest of the skull, the temporomandibular joints allow you to yawn, chew, speak, and otherwise open and close the mouth with ease. When the TMJ is working properly, these functions can be carried out smoothly and without disruption; however, a stressed, swollen, or inflamed temporomandibular joint can make movement of the jaw difficult and/or painful. Not only can problems with the TMJ limit jaw motion, but the delicate balance between the muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and cartilage surrounding the jaw joint can also be disrupted. This impairment in or around the TMJ may cause the jaw to lock, click, or pop, as well as force the structures around the TMJ to behave in irregular ways. In turn, pain, tension, and other symptoms may start around the jaw and eventually emanate to other parts of the body, such as the head, neck, shoulders, and back.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
As discussed previously, symptoms of TMD usually arise when the temporomandibular joint is stressed or swollen. The condition can also be caused by swelling or trauma to the muscles that control jaw motion. Ultimately, there is no singular cause of TMJ disorder and a variety of circumstances can lead to problems in and around the jaw joint, including:
- Clenching or grinding the teeth
- Misalignment of the upper and lower jaws
- Injury or trauma affecting the jaw
- Movement of the shock absorbing disk above the temporomandibular joints
- Stress to the facial muscles
Dr. Oelbaum and our entire dental team are highly experienced in evaluating a patient’s oral structures to determine whether TMJ-relation dysfunction is the cause of their symptoms. If you are indeed affected by TMD, our advanced dentistry practice can devise a treatment plan that is personalized to reduce your symptoms, or refer you to qualified TMJ specialists in the area who can restore proper function of your temporomandibular joints.
What are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
While each patient can experience different symptoms from TMJ malfunction, the condition is often characterized by:
- A clicking, popping, grating sound when moving the jaw
- Stiffness or locking of the jaw
- Headaches or migraines
- Sore or tired facial muscles
- Difficulty chewing or limited biting function
- A ringing in the ears
- Pain in the jaw, head, neck, shoulders, or back
- Facial swelling
Some TMJ-related symptoms may be temporary, occurring in cycles and resolving on their own with little to no treatment. However, long-term symptoms, or pain that begins to disrupt your daily life, typically exacerbate the longer they remain untreated. As with any medical condition, the best way to prevent further complications from developing is through proactive treatment from a qualified practitioner who has experience treating TMJ disorder.
What TMJ Treatments are Available?
First, one of our dentists will take x-rays to assess whether your temporomandibular joints and oral structures are in the correct positioning. They will examine your bite and listen for clicking or popping sounds when you open and close your mouth. If signs indicate that you are affected by TMJ disorder, customized oral appliance therapy can help treat your symptoms by reducing stress on the facial joints and musculature. For many patients, simply wearing a customized mouth or night guard can decrease pressure on the TMJ by preventing unnecessary clenching or grinding of the teeth. We also maintain a close working relationship with experienced TMJ specialists in the region, and would be happy to refer more complex cases of TMJ to their care.
Furthermore, teeth and jaw alignment through orthodontics can be utilized to encourage proper occlusion (bite), ensuring the structures surrounding the TMJ are in the intended positioning. No matter the nature of your unique case, Dr. Oelbaum or an experienced member of our dental team can develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to improve your symptoms and diminish your TMJ pain.
If you would like to learn more about TMJ disorder and how to treat your symptoms, please contact our practice to schedule a consultation.