Do you suffer from frequent headaches or jaw pain? Do you experience clicking in your jaw? You may have a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder). Although there is no single cause for this type of dysfunction, there are a number of contributing factors. Dr. Emily Ann Reece is a Raleigh, North Carolina dentist that helps patients with restorative dentistry treatments for their dental concerns. At Reedy Creek Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. Reece provides TMJ treatment in Cary, NC to alleviate orofacial pain and other painful symptoms.
What are the Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ)?
The temporomandibular joints connect the lower jaw bone to the base of the skull. They are located on both sides of the face directly in front of your ears. These joints are ball and socket hinges that allow your jaw to move freely. This is how you are able to speak, bite, and chew properly and generally open and close your mouth.
What is a TMJ Disorder?
A TMJ disorder, sometimes called TMD, is simply when these joints do not function properly. There is typically pain in the jaw joints and the muscles that control the jaw. It is hard to diagnose a TMJ disorder since the symptoms can be contributed to other issues.
Signs and symptoms of TMJ dysfunction may include:
- Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
- Tooth wear
- Popping or clicking in the jaw joints
- Frequent headaches or migraine headaches
- Pain in the face, neck, or shoulders
- Chronic earaches
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
The exact cause of your TMJ disorder may be difficult to figure out. In most cases, it is caused from a combination of factors. For some patients, it may not be evident what the cause of their pain is exactly from. Common factors that can contribute to a TMJ disorder include:
- Misaligned Bite: A misaligned bite, or malocclusion, is where the upper and lower teeth do not fit together properly. This will put strain on the TMJ.
- Bruxism: Teeth grinding and clenching often occurring during sleep or periods of stress. This activity will put strain the TMJ and surrounding muscles.
- Stress and Muscle Tension: High levels of stress and anxiety can cause muscle tension in the jaw area, resulting in TMJ-related symptoms.
- Injury: An injury to the face or jaw can cause damage or strain the TMJ and lead to painful TMJ symptoms.
- Arthritis: Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation, pain, and restricted movement in the jaw. This will affect the TMJ and surrounding muscles.
TMJ Treatment in Cary, NC
One of the most effective options for TMJ treatment is oral appliance therapy. Also known as splint therapy, an oral appliance with help you find relief from your TMJ symptoms. This non-invasive treatment is similar to a mouthguard. It involves wearing a custom fitted mouth piece to help alleviate your symptoms of TMJ and help improve your jaw function.
Patients will need to wear their oral appliance at night while sleeping. It will hold the jaw in place to relax the muscles and jaw joints. Patients who clench and grind their teeth at night benefit greatly from this treatment.
Essentially, an oral appliance prevents the upper and lower jaw from grinding together. Treating bruxism can protect the teeth from wearing down, breaking, or even from tooth loss. Repositioning the jaw can also prevent bruxism and provide more restful sleep.
At-Home TMJ Treatment
If you have mild TMJ symptoms, you can treat them with these home remedies:
- Jaw exercises
- Relaxing your facial muscles
- Using a heat pack
- Sleeping on your side
- Using an ice pack in a clean cloth
- Eating soft foods to help your jaw rest
But if any of your symptoms worsen, please call Dr. Reece as soon as possible. She will help you address your TMJ pain and discomfort.
TMJ Treatment FAQs
What can cause TMJ to flare up?
One of the most common causes of TMJ flare-ups is stress. Your muscles are tenser and you’re more likely to grind or clench your teeth subconsciously. Certain medications and foods that require a lot of chewing can also cause issues with this particular joint.
What happens if TMJ goes untreated?
Without treatment, TMJ can hinder the use of your mouth and jaw. It can lead to it clicking, popping, or difficulty opening and closing your mouth. The chronic pain that it causes can also lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
How long does it take for TMJ treatment to work?
With oral appliance therapy from our dentist office, you should see results within a few weeks or months. Once they’re under control and the appliance is consistently used, you shouldn’t have to worry about symptoms coming back.
Will my TMJ disorder go away without treatment?
In some cases, mild cases of TMJ resolve on their own with at home care such as resting the jaw, applying heat or cold packs, and practicing stress management techniques. However, if the symptoms never go away or get worse, you should seek out a professional evaluation and treatment.
When should I seek help for TMJ disorders?
If you TMJ symptoms are getting worse or will not seem to resolve with at home care, then you should reach out to Reedy Creek Family and Cosmetic Dentistry for a consult. Symptoms such as jaw pain, difficulty opening and closing your mouth, clicking and popping from the jaw, frequent headaches, and pain anywhere in the face are all signs you should be evaluated for TMJ dysfunction. Our dentist will evaluate your condition and suggest the best treatment for you.
Contact Our Raleigh, North Carolina Dental Office
Do you want to stop TMJ symptoms at the source? If you suffer from any TMJ symptoms, us today to receive comprehensive treatment. Our goal is to reverse your symptoms so they do not worsen over time.
Call Reedy Creek Family and Cosmetic Dentistry for comfortable care today at 919-646-6294. You may also request an appointment with Dr. Reece on our website. Let us know if you have any remaining questions about temporomandibular joint disorders. We will help clarify any confusion and help you create a personalized treatment plan.