Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) acts as a hinge that connects your jaw to your skull so you can move your jaw in every direction to chew, talk and yawn. Issues with these joints, which are situated on either side of your face, and the muscles that control them are known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD). While the pain and other symptoms can have a serious impact on your quality of life, treatment can reduce discomfort and help you regain jaw function.
You may have a TMJ-related condition if you experience:
- Clicking, grating or popping noises when you open and close your mouth
- Difficulty chewing or yawning
- Jaws that lock or get stuck in an opened or closed position
- Frequent headaches
- Pain, tenderness or tension in your jaw, face, ears or neck
- Discomfort when you try to open your mouth wide
- A sudden change in your bite, such as feeling like your top and bottom teeth aren’t meeting correctly
- Swelling on either side of your face
- Sensitive teeth with uneven wear
TMJ pain can be caused by a variety of factors including clenching or grinding your teeth, injury to the jaw, head or neck that either damages the joint or results in torn or stretched ligaments, stress that makes you tighten the muscles in your face or jaw, arthritis in the joint or movement in the disc between the joint’s ball and socket. Uncovering the underlying cause of TMD will result in the most effective treatment.
of TMD/TMJ Treatment
Alleviates chronic pain and tension in jaw, head and neck
Improves chewing and your ability to open and close your mouth
Boosts your quality of life, mood and overall health
Dr. Jung will evaluate your bite and examine your jaw and face. Once he determines what’s causing your TMJ pain, he can help you decide on the approach to treatment. He always attempts non-surgical options first. Pain, inflammation and muscle tension can usually be relieved with anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxants, pain relievers or steroid injections into the joints. He’ll also recommend a self-care regimen for you to do at home that may include resting your jaw, sticking to soft foods when you’re in pain, applying heat or ice, doing jaw exercises, practicing stress management and trying to keep your teeth apart when you’re not chewing. Physical therapy could be an option as well.
Sometimes, appliances are indicated, such as a plastic splint, or nightguard, which slips over your upper or lower teeth. It maintains a slight space between your teeth so that your muscles stay relaxed and you can’t grind or clench. This will protect your joints, muscles and cartilage. Other appliances can also be used to help reposition the jaw and discs and relieve pressure. If these appliances aren’t successful, orthodontics or restorative dental treatments could be a next step.
Dr. Jung only recommends surgical options when all other treatments fail and the case is severe, including when the patient can’t open their mouth, the jaw is dislocated or there are significant degenerative changes. Jaw surgery, which may or may not be combined with orthodontic treatment, open joint repair restructuring (repairing, replacing or repositioning the joint) or arthroscopy (a joint surgery that relies on an extremely thin, lighted tube for minimal incisions) could be considered. He’ll go over the pros and cons of all of your choices so you can make an informed, confident decision and experience lasting relief.