What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint between the lower jaw and the temporal bones of the skull. If you place your fingers just below your ears and move your lower jaw up and down you can feel that joint working.
What are TMJ Disorders?
TMJ disorders often occur when you start having trouble with your joint and can start developing for several reasons. Sometimes they come from too much teeth grinding (bruxism) or stress to the hinge joint. Other times TMJ disorders begin due to injury or disease. You can directly damage the bone or the muscle ligaments can tear or stretch. The cartilage disk that protects the joint can slip out of place. Also minor issues with the TMJ could lead to more serious and complex conditions if not diagnosed and treated early. However, because there are so many factors TMJ disorders can be tricky. Fortunately, modern technology makes Dr. Castle’s job a little easier when it comes to diagnosis and treatment.
How Do I Know if I Should See the Dentist?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you commonly clench or grind your teeth?
- Do you wake up with stiff or sore neck, jaw or shoulder muscles?
- Does pain or tension get worse when you press your teeth together?
- Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch or lock when you open your mouth?
- Is it difficult for you to open your mouth wide to eat or yawn?
- Have you ever experienced trauma to your jaws, head or neck?
- Do you have a problem with arthritis?
- Do your teeth still touch when you bite down?
- Has the alignment of your bite changed?
- Do your teeth feel sensitive, broken or worn?
If you answered yes to any of these questions you could be suffering from TMJ dysfunction and should contact Dr. Castle as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.
What are My Treatment Options?
No treatment can completely resolve TMJ disorders and most treatments will take time. However, with help from Dr. Castle, you can get help for your pain and discomfort and regain a healthier, harmonized jaw. The initial goal of treatment is to relive joint pain and reduce muscle spasms and unnecessary wear. This is why treatment often includes a pain killer, muscle relaxant or anti-inflammatory depending on the diagnosis. Dr. Castle might tell you to rest your jaw, keep your teeth apart as much as possible, eat soft foods and practice good posture until your TMJ recovers. You might consider stress management techniques to reduce your anxiety and bruxism, if that is the underlying problem. Also Dr. Castle can provide oral appliances to help reduce discomfort from TMJ disorders or even correct alignment. There are three main options:
These custom-designed appliances fit precisely over your top or bottom teeth. They help keep your teeth and jaws apart to stop you from clenching and grinding your teeth, which causes unnecessary damage to the enamel. These appliances will help relax your facial muscles and reduce tension. As the name suggests, Dr. Castle requires most patients to wear these appliances while they sleep. However, if you grind your teeth while you drive, work out, take a test or work on the computer you can wear it during these peak-anxiety times.
2. Anterior Positioning Appliances
This oral appliance pushes your lower jaw forward to relive pressure on the joint. It can aid in disk repositioning to help your jaw heal and restore alignment. You can wear this appliance 24 hours a day or just at night as recommended by Dr. Castle.
3. Orthodontics or Stabilization Appliances
Sometimes, to reduce discomfort from or to correct problems caused by TMJ disorders, Dr. Castle will recommend orthodontic treatment to realign your bite and jaw. You might need braces or a custom-fitted appliance that will move your jaw into proper position. At first, you will wear the removable appliances 24 hours a day but can gradually transition to just nights as soon as Dr. Castle gives you the directive.
What About Surgery?
If your disorder has caused severe damage you might require jaw reconstruction along with restorative dental work. Two surgical options include arthroscopy and open joint repair, but Dr. Castle reserves these for the most severe cases. She will not even consider surgery unless the jaw is locked, dislocated, degenerated or non-reducible. This is a last resort if appliance treatment was unsuccessful.
Choosing Brighter Days Dental for TMJ Therapy
At Brighter Days, we use advanced technology in both the diagnosis and treatment of our patients. With our CT scans and digital X-rays, our dentist can see the cause and effect relationships of the TMJ disorders many other general dentists cannot. This advanced tech allows us to provide precise diagnosis. Also through patient education you can work with Dr. Castle to find the right treatment plan for your unique needs.
If you have concerns about TMJ disorders, please contact our office at 937-335-8014 to schedule an evaluation. The earlier you seek treatment, the more we can do to save you the pain and damage caused by TMJ dysfunction.