TMJ Disorders Explained

“I have TMJ.” When people say this, they most often mean that they are suffering from a TMJ disorder. Your temporomandibular joints, abbreviated TMJ, are what make it possible for you to open and close your mouth. Located on either side of your skull, these joints work in tandem when you chew, speak or swallow and include muscles and ligaments as well as the jaw bone. This system also allows the lower jaw- called your mandible – to move forward, backward and side to side.

Each TMJ has a sponge-like disc of cartilage between the ball and socket of the joint. The disc supports the jaw, enabling it to open wide and rotate or glide. Any problem that impedes this complicated system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working properly can be considered a TMJ disorder. Dentists like Dr. Brent Engelberg of AH Smiles in Arlington Heights, IL can diagnose and treat this condition and help you to alleviate the discomfort and stop the progression of dental issues that TMJ disorders 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 TMJ Diagnosed?

A dentist must diagnose the ailment before treatment can begin. A comprehensive dental examination 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 problem, Dr. Engelberg may refer you to a physician or a dental specialist for more advanced treatment.

How is TMJ Treated?

For more routine cases, there are several methods of treatment for TMJ disorders. Below are a list of simple remedies to try at home before moving on to more involved treatment. These steps are a “less is more” approach in treating TMJ disorders, and 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 and cannot be relieved with these simple lifestyle changes, the following treatments may be recommended by Dr. Engelberg:

  • 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 advocate for adjusting or reshaping some teeth to alter the bite or pursuing orthodontic treatment if necessary. Dr. Engelberg can suggest the most appropriate treatment based on the determined cause of your TMD.  If you are in the Arlington Heights, IL area and think you may be suffering from a TMD, any other dental ailment or just need a routine cleaning or consultation, please call (847) 230-9703 to schedule with Dr. Engelberg at AH Smiles or schedule with our office online.