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Eliminating Your Pain

TMJ Disorder

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge that connects our jawbones to our head. This joint is located directly in front of the ears and allows us to speak and chew our food. The TMJ is able to rotate, glide, and act as a powerful hinge simultaneously. Many patients come to Glass Orthodontics experiencing pain or discomfort in their jaw or the surrounding areas. Several things can cause this, but it is usually due to the TMJ.

TMJ issues are more commonly referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). TMD describes the jaw pain and dysfunction that can happen when something has gone wrong with the muscles and joints of the jaw. Because these areas are full of nerve endings, even minor issues can produce symptoms that range from mild to severe, including pain, swelling, or problems chewing.

What Is TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects the jaw to the skull and is located in front of each ear. Occasionally, people can experience tenderness, pain or discomfort in this location, and the cause may be unknown. The TMJ is surrounded by several complex tissues like tendons, muscles, joint pads and nerves. These components normally operate together, but when they don’t, it can result in pain, popping, and inflammation. Problems with the jaw and the muscles in the face that control the jaw are known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD).

What Causes TMD?

TMD can develop from any number of problems with the muscles of your jaw or with the parts of the joint itself. These things can also contribute to TMD:

  • Injuries to your jaw, TMJ, or the muscles of your head and neck
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth
  • Movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the joint
  • Arthritis in the TMJ
  • Stress, which can tighten your facial and jaw muscles
  • Misaligned bite (problem with the way teeth fit together)
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How is TMD diagnosed?

To determine how best to treat your condition, a complete evaluation is recommended. Using the latest orthodontic technology, Dr. Glass can determine the source of your TMD. Some of the methods he may use in his diagnosis include:

  • Checking your jaw joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping, or difficulty moving.
  • Reviewing your complete medical and dental history
  • X-rays and scans of the mouth and jaw
  • Measuring various aspects of the teeth and jaw
  • Determining the jaw’s proper resting position
  • Making a model of your teeth to see how your bite fits together.
  • Mapping the movement of the jaw during speaking and eating

Once Dr. Glass has determined the source of your TMD, he can create a customized treatment plan for your unique needs.

Change In Habits

Many people who have TMD experience only minor symptoms that occur infrequently. These cases of TMD generally resolve on their own within a few weeks or months and can be eased by:

  • Eating softer foods
  • Avoid foods that cause symptoms
  • Applying ice or moist heat to the affected area
  • Avoiding extreme jaw movements like wide yawning, yelling, singing
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Taking smaller bites of food
  • Alternating chewing between both sides of your mouth
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques to control jaw tension, such as meditation
  • Medicines to reduce pain or inflammation or to help you relax

What Are The Types of TMD Treatment?

Whenever possible, Dr. Glass will recommend conservative, noninvasive methods to treat your TMD. These methods are best because they don’t cause any permanent changes to the structure or position of the jaw or teeth and do not require further treatment.

Woman holding occlusal splint on light background, closeup

A night guard is a custom-made appliance that you wear over your teeth when you sleep to protect them from damage caused by clenching or grinding. By creating a physical barrier between your upper and lower teeth, you will no longer be able to clench and grind and wear down your teeth. These are all things that can cause TMD symptoms.

Typically, we treat TMJ disorders with a custom splint that is worn 24/7 (except for eating and brushing of teeth) to help relax the jaw into its proper position. Dr. Glass will see you every 2 to 4 weeks to make adjustments as your bite changes and your jaw gets more comfortable. The typical treatment time is 3 to 6 months.

Sometimes your TMD can be corrected by improving your bite. If bite correction is needed to minimize or eliminate your TMD symptoms, orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign may be advised.

Symptoms Of TMD

Because we use our TMJ so often, the range of symptoms associated with TMD will vary. Some people only have issues with one side of their face, while others may experience problems with both sides. Some patients have mild symptoms that show up infrequently, while others struggle with serious problems that can take years to resolve. Signs and symptoms of TMD may occur off and on for many years and can include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw, neck or shoulders
  • Pain in one side of the face or both
  • Dull aching pain in or around the ear
  • Difficulty, pain or popping when chewing
  • A tired feeling in your face
  • Clicking or popping when opening your mouth
  • Locking of the jaw making it difficult to open or close your mouth
  • Difficulty opening the mouth wide
  • Feeling as though your upper and lower teeth don’t fit together properly
  • Swelling on the side of your face
  • Ringing or stuffy ears
  • Migraines or headaches
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Request Your Complimentary Consultation

Are you curious to learn more? Fill out our easy online form to request your complimentary orthodontic consultation with Dr Timothy Glass.

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