If you have TMJ pain, I think you’ll agree that it’s one of the most frustrating conditions to have. It can be jaw pain, ear pain, neck pain, or even a headache, and you never know when it’s going to show up.
What is TMJ / TMD?
TMJ is the anatomical abbreviation for Temporo Mandibular joint, which is a joint connecting your lower jawbone to the base of your skull. It allows us to form words and chew food, and open our mouths for breathing. The TMJ is referred to as single joint, but there are actually two hinge points in front of each ear that enable movement. To accomplish all of these movements, the joint has the ability to rotate in several different directions and essentially create a hinging, translatory, or gliding movements.
Because this joint is one of the most frequently used joints in the body, when it gets inflamed, it can be very painful and impact many aspects of normal activities. Problems with the TMJ are called TMD (Temporomandibular Disorders), or TMJ Disorders. But people (and often even dentists) often simply refer to this condition as “TMJ”.
Temporo mandibular Disorder (TMD) presents as a significant clinical problem that affects approximately 75% of the US population, 10-12% of which seek or require professional care. TMD refers to a complex set of conditions manifested by pain and dysfunction in the region of the face, jaw, head, and neck. Rarely there is a single cause or symptom, the pain may arise from a sudden trauma or progressively over months to years. Symptoms may fluctuate over time with a change in frequency and intensity. Due to the complexity of symptoms, there is no quick/immediate cure for TMD and the most successful and scientifically supported treatments focus on self-management and control of aggravating factors. Long-term relief can be achieved with conservative therapy.
WHAT CAUSES TMJ/ TMD?
The factors responsible for TMJ Disorders may be single or multifactorial. These may include:
Developmental – a mal relationship of the maxilla and mandible produces symptoms that may emerge during childhood or may not occur until adulthood after years of day-to-day trauma.
Improper occlusion/ bite – when teeth do not fit together properly it causes sustained micro trauma to the joints. Over time the body compensates by involving other muscles of the jaw
Direct trauma to the jaw
Indirect trauma to the jaw – a significant number of cervical whiplash injuries are accompanied with mandibular whiplash – a stretching and tearing of the ligaments of the jaw joints cause damage within the supporting musculature
Tooth Loss – losing teeth without adequate replacement results in a change in jaw position, improper restorations that change the jaw relationship or make an incorrect one worsen
Poor Sleep habits / Position
Poor posture – Places unnecessary wear and tear on all joints, inclusing jaw joints and resulting damage is similar to direct trauma
Bruxism/ clenching of teeth – some patients do this unconsciously and in some patients we are uncertain why this is occurring. This produces stress on jaw joints and muscles of the face and neck
Sleep apnea – it is theorized that some patients clench and brux their teeth unconsciously to maintain the muscles of the throat and mouth in a patent open airway. This will help maintain an airway but will put stress on jaw joints and muscles of face and neck
Stress – some patients unconsciously brux and or clench their teeth in response to increased stress
General health - conditions like arthritis, hormonal issues, muscle disorders, auto immune disorders etc also make cause TMJ issues
Who Should See Dr. Adatrow?
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should schedule a consultation:
Pain behind the eyes or blurred vision
Unexplained tooth pain
Ear ache, congestion or ringing
Clicking, popping or grating
Limited opening or locking
Pain when chewing
Facial/head pain or numbness
Neck or throat pain
Difficulty closing teeth
How do we treat the condition?
Experts strongly recommend using the most conservative, reversible treatments possible. Conservative treatments do not invade the tissues of the face, jaw, or joint, or involve surgery. Reversible treatments do not cause permanent changes in the structure or position of the jaw or teeth. Even when TMJ disorders have become persistent, most patients still do not need aggressive types of treatment.
Dr. Adatrow offers the best conservative and advanced treatment options available for TMJ, facial pain and headaches. Treatments offered by Dr. Adatrow are personalized to you, and may include:
Imaging Studies such as CT Scans/ MRI/ Xrays
Oral appliance therapy (custom mouthguards, nightguards, splints)
Trigger point injections of the muscle
Steroid injections of the TM joint and tendons
Therapeutic ointments and medication for oral, facial and TMJ pain
Low Level Laser therapy