You may have heard someone say “I have TMJ.” However, TMJ is not an illness or disorder. Instead, they are your temporomandibular joints – abbreviated TMJ. This is the system that makes it possible to open and close your mouth. Your TMJ are located on either side of your skull and allow you to chew, speak or swallow. The TMJ system includes not only your lower jaw, or mandible, but also the muscles and ligaments that move it.
Each side of the TMJ includes a disc of cartilage that cushions the ball and socket joint of your mandible. This cartilage supports the jaw while also allowing it the freedom of movement to open wide or move from side to side. Anything that causes problems in this system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones can be called a TMJ disorder and this is what most people refer to when discussing TMJ. Dentists like Dr. John Hendricks in Bluffton, SC can diagnose and treat this problem to alleviate the discomfort from TMD’s and stop the progression of dental issues that they can cause.
Symptoms of a TMD
A disorder of the TMJ is called a TMD — a temporomandibular disorder. TMD can be difficult to diagnose as it shows itself very differently in different individuals. However, some of the most common signs of a TMD are:
- Frequent headaches
- Popping, clicking or grating of the jaw (TMJ joint)
- “Locked” jaw and/or limited mobility in the jaw joint
- Discomfort when eating or chewing
- Chronic earaches without evidence of ear infections
- Soreness or tiredness in the face and/or jaws
What Causes TMJ Disorders (TMD)?
Possible causes of TMJ disorders include:
- Alignment of jaw and teeth
- Teeth grinding due to stress
How is TMJ Diagnosed?
Your dentist must perform a thorough examination of your bite and diagnose the condition. He or she can determine its severity before treatment begins. A dental examination to diagnose a TMD should include your dentist checking the joints and muscles of the jaw for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty of motion.
Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, Dr. Hendricks may refer you to a physician or a dental specialist for more advanced treatment.
How is TMJ Treated?
For less serious TMD’s, there are several home remedies Dr. Hendricks may recommend you try before considering more invasive treatment. These lifestyle change-based remedies include:
- Eating softer foods.
- Avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
- Applying heat packs to the source of the discomfort
- Consider trying relaxation techniques to relieve tension in the jaw such as meditation or biofeedback
- Exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles
If your symptoms are more severe, the following therapies for TMJ may include:
- Medication to relieve anxiety
- Oral appliance therapy (such as a night guard)
- Dental splints
- Occlusal equilibration, making changes to the fit of the bite by reshaping and/or removing tooth structure
Bluffton, SC TMJ Treatment
With a consultation, Dr. Hendricks can determine which treatment would best suit your specific case of TMD. If you are in the Bluffton, SC area and think you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, any other dental ailment or just need a cleaning or consultation, please call (843) 284-7340 to schedule with Dr. Hendricks at Lowcountry Dental Center or schedule with our office online.