We treat patients with TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder at Curry Dental Center. Our staff and Dr. Curry know this problem well and many of our patients suffer from it. We can provide a full TMJ exam which includes listening to the jaw joints with a Doppler device. In addition, we can perform an occlusal analysis which helps us diagnose and customize a treatment plan based on our findings. The occlusal analysis allows us to study a patient’s bite and see how the teeth work together as they function. It will also help reveal if any of the teeth are higher than the others which prevent them from working together and may trigger jaw muscles to start clenching and grinding the teeth.
TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome) is a problem or disorder that affects the jaw joints, chewing muscles, and ligaments. Most commonly it is caused by a bite that is off balance. However, trauma to the head or jaw can cause problems too. One of the most common symptoms of this disorder is popping or clicking of the jaw joint with opening or closing.
With this syndrome, you may also experience pain while eating, soreness in the chewing muscles, grinding or clenching of teeth, jaw locking open or closed or frequent headaches.
Some people with the following could be more vulnerable to TMJ:
- Women ages 18-44
- Patients with known inflammatory disorders or chronic disease
- Patients with badly positioned teeth
- Patients who have had trauma or jaw injury
It is not completely clear why some people suffer from TMJ dysfunction and others do not. Many causes seem to be connected with muscle tension, tightness, and other disorders.
Some factors that could cause the problem are:
- Misalignment of the jaw and bite
- Poorly contoured dental fillings, crowns, or bridges
- Orthodontic treatment which causes disharmony of the bite and the joints
- Arthritis or other musculoskeletal conditions
- Major stress and anxiety can contribute to problems but not the initial cause of disease
The number one symptom for TMJ would be pain in the jaw joint. You can locate the joint just in front of your ear. The main symptoms include:
- Jaw Pain Popping in Jaw or occasional clicking
- Ear Pain or ringing
- Difficulty opening
- Sore neck, face, and jaw
- Locking of the jaw open or closed
Diagnosis and Treatment
A verbal history of a patient’s jaw joint problems is taken to help Dr. Curry pinpoint symptoms and the potential underlying cause. Next a TMJ exam is conducted, consisting of recording jaw function, palpation of the joint and chewing muscles. Worn teeth and teeth that interfere with normal chewing function are also identified and recorded.
At Curry Dental Center, we use an effective screening tool, the TMJ Doppler. This equipment has been around for many years and can be beneficial in diagnosing this disorder. It works like a stethoscope with a microphone using Doppler wave technology. The noise that is detected from the jaw joint allows us to identify a diseased joint and gauge where the damage has occurred.
The Doppler Test Steps:
- Gel is put on what is called a transducer which is placed in front of the ear
- Volume is turned up, and the transducer is angled until a pulse from the Superficial Temporal artery is heard
- The transducer is then angled slightly away from the ST artery and patient is instructed to open and close the jaw at a slow pace
- If noise is heard, the sound is further evaluated by asking the patient to do certain movements with their jaw
In more advanced cases, a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) or Cone Beam (CBT) image of the temporomandibular joint may be necessary to assess the level or stage of damage to the jaw joint.
There are a variety of ways to treat TMJ, from home remedies to surgery for severe cases. Many remedies revolve around adjusting or correcting an off balanced bite. In addition, reducing stress can help.
For home relief from TMJ dysfunction try the following:
- Apply ice or a warm compress to the joint area
- Take an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication like Advil or Aleve
- Avoid chewing gum
- Eat soft foods
- Massage the jaw and neck areas
Medical treatments are also available. There are different options for treating misalignments and malocclusion issues. One is wearing an occlusal splint which is a dental appliance that is fitted to the teeth and adjusted to prevent teeth from interfering and triggering clenching or grinding. Another option is an occlusal adjustment, which consists of selectively grinding teeth surfaces to remove interferences, may also help prevent grinding and clenching. Sometimes faulty dental work that is over contoured may need to be replaced. Replacing missing teeth can also help balance the bite. Orthodontics can also help correct a misaligned bite. For patients with acute muscle pain and spasm, prescribed muscle relaxants can help. In severe TMJ dysfunction cases, surgery on the jaw joints may be indicated.