As many as 35 million Americans suffer from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, a painful condition affecting one or both jaw joints. That’s about 10% of the population of the United States dealing with chronic jaw pain, headaches, jaw “clicking,” and other symptoms.
Our team of board-certified dental professionals at Lancaster Dental Care Associates in Lancaster, California, helps patients manage their TMJ symptoms and improve jaw function with a variety of TMJ treatment options tailored to each patient’s unique needs.
If you experience TMJ-related discomfort, here’s how to tell if you need surgery or if conservative options can help you feel better.
TMJ and TMD: The basics
You have two temporomandibular joints — one on either side of your jaw. The joints form where the rounded end of your jaw bone (mandible) meets your skull in a shallow socket.
When you chew, yawn, or speak, the upper ends of your mandible move back and forth inside these sockets. Between each bone and socket is a spongy disc that helps cushion and protect your joint while facilitating smooth joint movements.
Strictly speaking, TMJ is a nickname for the jaw joint; TMD refers to temporomandibular joint disorder, the condition that affects your TMJ joint, causing dysfunction and symptoms like:
- Jaw pain
- Jaw clicking
- Jaw sticking
- Facial pain
- Swelling over your joint
- Facial fatigue
- Problems with chewing or biting
Researchers aren’t sure what causes TMD, but they do know that a variety of factors appear to contribute to TMJ dysfunction, including:
- Chronic teeth grinding or clenching
- Chronic stress
- Structural issues involving the joint components
- Poor jaw alignment or bite problems
While both genders are affected, women are about nine times as likely as men to suffer from TMD’s painful symptoms.
The first step in treating TMD is identifying the factors that could be contributing to your symptoms. Before your dentist recommends any treatment, they complete a comprehensive dental exam with a bite analysis and imaging of your jaws and jaw joints. Then your dentist develops a treatment plan that focuses on those factors.
For instance, if your teeth are misaligned or you have another bite-related problem, orthodontic treatment could be the best way to restore normal jaw function and relieve your symptoms. Other possible treatments include:
- Dietary changes to include more soft foods
- Hot and cold therapy to reduce inflammation and pain
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Pain medication
- Wearing a night guard
- Jaw exercises
Many patients find a combination of treatments helps their jaw joints heal while relieving painful symptoms.
When conservative treatment options don’t work, surgery might be needed to reposition your jaw joint or correct damage inside your joint. Our practice includes a skilled oral surgeon with experience in treating TMD, so you can feel confident you’ll receive the most appropriate care for your TMD symptoms.
The right treatment for your jaw pain
TMD is a major cause of jaw pain and related symptoms — but it’s not the only cause. To find out what’s causing your jaw symptoms and what we can do to help, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Lancaster Dental Associates today.