Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?

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You might have once heard someone say “I have TMJ.” What they were most likely referring to is that they are suffering from a disorder of the TMJ system — the temporomandibular joints. The TMJ system, located on either side of your skull make it possible to open and close your mouth, working together whenever you chew, speak or swallow. Your TMJ actually includes the various muscles and ligaments involved in these processes as well as the jaw bone itself. The TMJ also control the lower jaw — your mandible — as it moves forward, backward and side to side, which is essential in chewing and talking.

What is TMJ?

Each TMJ has a disc of cartilage between the ball and socket of the joint. The disc supports the load while enabling the jaw to open wide and rotate or glide. Any problem that prevents this complicated system of muscle ligaments, discs and bones from operating normally can be called a TMJ disorder — or TMD. TMD often results in pain, headaches, and clicking or popping of the jaw point. TMD can also lead to teeth grinding and/or clenching which can cause damage to the teeth and gums over time.

Dentists like Dr. Brent Engelberg and Dr. Jennifer Mullarkey of AH Smiles in Arlington Heights, IL can diagnose and treat this problem to relieve the discomfort of TMD and stop the progression of dental issues that it can bring on.

What Causes TMJ Disorders (TMD)?

Possible causes of TMJ disorders include:

  • Arthritis
  • Dislocation
  • Injury
  • Alignment of jaw and teeth
  • Teeth grinding due to stress

How is a TMD Diagnosed?

Dr. Engelberg or Dr. Mullarkey must first examine the patient to diagnose the TMD before treatment can begin. A dental examination for TMJ should include the dentist checking the patient’s joints and muscles of the jaw for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty of motion.

Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, your AH Smiles dentist may refer you to a physician or a dental specialist for more advanced treatment.

How is TMD Treated?

For routine cases, there are several standard methods of treatment recommended for TMJ disorders. The steps below are simple “home remedies” to try on your own before moving on to more involved treatment. This “less is more” approach for the treatment of TMD includes:

  • Eating softer foods
  • Avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
  • Applying heat packs to the pain
  • Practicing relaxation techniques to alleviate tension in the jaw, including meditation or biofeedback.

If your symptoms are more severe, the following treatments may be recommended by your AH Smiles dentist:

  • Exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles
  • Medications prescribed by your dentist; such as muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-
  • Anxiety drugs or anti-inflammatory medications
  • A mouth guard or bite plate to reduce clenching or grinding of teeth.

In some cases, your dentist may recommend correct an uneven bite by adjusting your teth with orthodontic treatment or reshaping some teeth with cosmetic dentistry procedures. Your AH Smiles dentist can suggest the most appropriate treatment based on the determined cause.  If you are in the Arlington Heights, IL area and think you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, any other dental ailment or just need a cleaning or consultation, please call (847) 230-9703 to schedule with Dr. Engelberg or Dr. Mullarkey at AH Smiles or schedule with our office online.