What is TMJ and How is it Treated?

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What is TMJ and How is it Treated?

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, it is believed that over 10 million Americans are affected by Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD/TMJ) and joint pain. If you are having pain in your jaw or the muscles that control the movement of your jaw, or if you hear a popping or clicking noise when chewing, or opening and closing your jaw, you may have fallen victim as well. Our Mountain Aire Dentistry team can help you diagnose your jaw pain and prescribe appropriate treatment.

Understanding TMJ

If you are suffering from TMJ syndrome, don’t worry, the outlook looks good.  Most cases of TMJ can be treated successfully and leave you with no lasting pain or damages.  Understanding what has caused your pain and/or dysfunction is an important part to solving the pain and preventing it from happening again.  

Your “Temporomandibular Joint,” more commonly referred to as the “jaw joint,”assists in the basic opening and closing movements of your jaw.  Unfortunately, this joint is a common area for recurring pain because of how often we use it.  Although logic would suggest that “popping” sounds in the jaw indicate a TMJ dysfunction, this is not always the case. Many times, your jaw is functioning properly even if a “popping” sound is present when chewing or talking.

TMJ Exam

If you start to experience pain in your jaw, don’t just treat the symptoms but go right to the cause.  Many people will turn to over-the-counter medicines when they begin to have symptoms to try and postpone dealing with an issue.  They hope it will just go away.  By not involving your dentist early on, you could be setting yourself up for more severe problems and a longer recovery process. Don’t mask the symptoms, go to the source of the symptoms by scheduling a TMJ exam with Dr. Berry.  Dr. Berry is trained to help diagnose your symptoms and get you the relief you need.

To diagnose your jaw pain, Dr. Berry offers a TMJ exam to inspect the joint tissue in the “hinge” of your jaw.  Dr. Berry may take x-rays of your jaw joint and surrounding structures to better diagnose your symptoms. He may also palpate and study the musculature and other tissues of your head and neck to look for inflammation. Certain movements and exercises will be used to assess your mobility and function. In some cases, a referral to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for further studies may be recommended.  

Most often, we find that TMJ pain is related to swelling, deterioration of the joint tissue or damaged joint tissue (which cushions the jaw bones during the opening and closing movement of the mouth).  Depending on the severity of your condition, common pain relievers and cold compresses can provide temporary relief for most cases of TMJ while we work on eliminating the cause(s).  In more severe cases of TMJ surgery may be necessary.

Prevention Strategies for TMJ

If you have begun to see warning signs that you may be developing TMJ, or you are already suffering from the syndrome, there are actions you can take to help it from becoming worse. First, and foremost, make an appointment with your Dr. Berry so he can conduct a TMJ exam and offer you his treatment advice.  Your specific prevention strategies may differ from those listed below depending on the severity of your symptoms, and his findings.  Some common prevention tips include:

  • Avoid  chewy foods, chewing gum or biting on hard objects (including pens or fingernails.)
  • Support your jaw when you yawn.
  • Take small bites of food when eating to limit jaw stress.
  • Massage your cheeks, jaw, and temple muscles daily.
  • Apply moist heat during or after a muscle spasm to provide relief.
  • Evaluate your neck posture when sleeping and make sure you have adequate support.
  • If you clench or grind your teeth, tell Dr. Berry so he can provide you with a nightguard or other orthodontic appliance/retainer to help: 1) redirect the positioning of the TMJ joint; 2) protect your jaw and teeth; 3) alleviate pain and jaw stress.

Call for a TMJ Consultation

Dr. Berry is highly skilled and trained to provide a variety of dental services. Our office is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to ensure you receive the best possible care.  Our office is located in Broomfield, Colorado, with convenient access to the communities of Thornton, Broomfield, Northglenn and Westminster. Call for your appointment today at  (303) 731-7755. We look forward to meeting you and your family!