Millions of people suffer from chronic mouth and jaw pain. When this pain is accompanied by headaches, earaches, clicking and popping in the jaw, and pain when chewing or swallowing, it might be due to a condition called TMJ or temporomandibular disorder. TMJ is more common than many people think, and there are a variety of treatment options available today. Unfortunately, facing the unknown can be frightening. Many people put off taking the first step and scheduling an appointment with a dental professional. Read on to discover more about TMJ and what to expect from a visit with a TMJ dentist.
The temporomandibular joint is important to overall health as it contributes to the ability to chew and speak properly. It effects the joints and muscles of the jaw, as well as nerves of the face. Untreated TMJ can sometimes result in excruciating pain that effects the ability to eat, sleep and participate in other everyday activities.
There are many indicators that a person could be experiencing TMJ. Symptoms include those already mentioned above, but also encompass neck pain, difficulty in opening the jaw along with pain, sensitive teeth with no other apparent issues, and pain in the ear when swallowing. An individual could experience all of these ailments or just a few. The only way to be certain that your symptoms are TMJ related is with the help of TMJ dentists.
Your first visit to a TMJ dentist will probably, in many ways, resemble a regular dental visit, with a few minor exceptions. Diagnostic processes will vary somewhat across practitioners and will also depend, in part, on if you are or have been a patient of the dental practice in the past. Either way, the dental team will start with a review of your medical and dental history and will conduct an interview to determine your particular symptoms as well as their level of intensity and longevity. It is important for the TMJ dentist to be very thorough as other conditions share some of the symptoms of TMJ, including toothache and sinus issues.
The TMJ dentist will then conduct range of motion testing for the jaw. They’ll also listen to and feel the jaw as it opens and closes. They will also check all of the head and neck muscles as well as ligaments and tendons. In many cases, the TMJ dentist will also order x-rays or sometimes even an MRI. Often, a TMJ arthroscopy is also used. This is a test that helps to confirm a suspected diagnosis by the insertion of a small thin tube into the joint along with a small camera. All of these things, in addition to a traditional dental exam, will assist in both confirming and determining the severity of TMJ present.
Fortunately, once a TMJ dentist confirms your diagnosis, there are many treatment options available. Often, TMJ will go away on its own, especially if the root cause can be established as stress related. When highly stressed, many people unconsciously grind their teeth, which is a major contributor to TMJ. This is a difficult habit to curtail, especially as it often occurs while sleeping, but it is possible to combat through diligence and engaging in stress relieving activities such as exercise.
If your symptoms are mild, or you are concerned about pursuing other treatment measures, your TMJ dentist may recommend trying some stress relief activities first. Besides exercise, some additional popular activities include counseling, relaxation techniques and massage of the facial area. Counseling provides education and recommendations necessary to combat stress. Relaxation techniques offer alternatives to teeth grinding for your body to deal with stress. Even if you decide to pursue alternative treatment options, exercise and other stress relievers will probably still be a part of the recommended program.
Many other treatment options exist, including surgery, physical therapy, oral appliances and sometimes medication. Surgery can run the gamut from actually operating on a damaged joint to simple injections. Surgery is often a last resort as the results can be hit or miss. The last thing anyone wants to do is undergo expensive surgery and a long recover time for no results. Oral appliances are similar to a mouth guard used in sports and physical therapy generally involves strengthening and stretching the jaw muscles.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms described in this article or have any other indication or concern that you might have TMJ, it is a good idea to seek out the services of a TMJ dentist. Most of the diagnostic tools are relatively pain free, and with all of the treatment options available today, there is sure to be at least one that meets your individual needs.
The easiest way to find a TMJ dentist that works best for you is to ask your family dentist. Your dentist, or another dentist in the same practice, may already specialize in TMJ. But, if not, they can certainly refer you to a TMJ specialist. Another option is to ask your physician for a referral. You can even ask family and friends who have experienced TMJ and sought the services of a dental professional previously. The American Academy of Orofacial Pain is a professional organization of dentists and other health professionals that would also be able to provide information on the best TMJ dentists near you.
Learn more about treating your jaw pain with a TMJ dentist, contact Mark Levy DDS at (614) 777-7350 today. Our experienced staff is standing by to help evaluate your case. We’ll then provide all the information you need to make an educated decision about your line of care. Our patients are our first priority. We will do everything we can to treat your jaw pain and help you regain your quality of life.