Facial pain affects the lives of more than 15 percent of adults in the U.S. TMJ Disorders could be the culprit behind some of this pain. Most people are not familiar with the medical term TMJ (temporomandibular joint) Disorders, or TMD. Therefore, it is often misunderstood and under-diagnosed. It is estimated that more than 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ Disorders. Many patients suffering from this joint syndrome do not realize they have this problem.
- What is a TMJ Disorder (TMD)?
- Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
- What Causes TMJ Disorder?
- How is a TMJ Disorder (TMD) Diagnosed?
- Treatment for TMJ
- The Relationship Between TMJ/TMD and Headaches
- Schedule Your Neuromuscular Evaluation in Salt Lake City
If you’re experiencing jaw pain or other TMD symptoms, please call our neuromuscular dentist, Dr. Keith Warr, in Salt Lake City today at (801) 216-3713 to schedule your neuromuscular evaluation. Warr Dental serves patients in Salt Lake City, Midvale, West Jordan and surrounding areas of Utah.
What is a TMJ Disorder (TMD)?
Your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are some of the most complex joints in your body. They are located on either side of your jaw and involve your muscles, ligaments, and bones, which work together to make chewing and speaking possible. When the harmony of the teeth, jaw muscles, and TMJ no longer exists, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is the name for the resulting pain and discomfort.
TMD/TMJ occurs as a result of excessive strain on the jaw muscles, which is caused when the jaw itself is misaligned. There are many factors that can cause TMJ/TMD, such as stress or worn-down areas of your teeth. Once this misalignment occurs, it impacts the bones, teeth, and muscles. Only when all three components are balanced and physiologically healthy are you able to enjoy optimal comfort, which could improve through restorative dentistry measures.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
TMD is often ignored because its symptoms are easily confused with other problems. You may want to visit a qualified neuromuscular dentist if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms and you have not found a long-term solution:
- Sharp neck and shoulder pain
- Ear congestion
- Pain behind the eyes
- Back and neck pain
- Unexplained loose teeth
- Teeth clenching or grinding
- Facial pain
- Sensitive and sore teeth
- Chronic jaw pain
- Limited jaw movement or locking jaw
- Numbness in the fingers and arms
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or opening the mouth widely
- Worn or cracked teeth
- Tingling fingertips
- Sleep problems
- Trigeminal neuralgia
Jaw clicking/popping is a common complaint we hear from our patients. A clicking jaw is not always a sign of TMD, especially if you’re not experiencing pain with the sound. Dr. Warr can determine if your jaw clicking or popping is a symptom of TMD or if it’s only a temporary annoyance. If you have additional symptoms such as headaches or facial pain, you could still have TMD.
Tinnitus, or ringing ears, can also be a sign of a TMJ Disorder or a neurological condition, and it is incredibly common in America. Nearly 50 million adults have ringing in their ears, which can range from annoying to debilitating. Sometimes, this ringing is even audible to the people around you, but 99 percent of those with tinnitus have subjective tinnitus—in which case the sound is only heard by them. An exam at our Salt Lake City office can help determine if the ringing in your ears is being caused by one or both of your temporomandibular joints.
The acronyms of TMJ and TMD are generally used synonymously when describing symptoms associated with the jaw joint. Your symptoms could be caused by TMD, but a toothache or sinus problems can also lead to some of the symptoms listed above.
What Causes TMJ Disorder (TMD)?
There are a host of potential causes of TMJ disorders. Some are related to lifestyle factors, while others are due to a separate medical condition. Some of the possible TMD causes include:
- Grinding your teeth
- Clenching your teeth
- Gnashing your teeth
- Tightened facial muscles, often resulting from stress
- Displaced disc causing jaw misalignment
- Dislocation involving the jaw
- Degenerative joint diseases including arthritis
Habits such as clenching, grinding, and gnashing your teeth can happen when you’re awake or when you’re asleep. A night guard may help in these cases along with other TMJ disorder treatments, and these habits can have a significant effect on your overall mouth, causing tooth chips and worn-down teeth.
How is a TMJ Disorder (TMD) Diagnosed?
Diagnosing a TMJ Disorder involves a neuromuscular evaluation. The step of TMJ treatment is identifying whether or not your symptoms are caused by a disorder affecting the temporomandibular joint that connects the jaw. TMJ symptoms often involve facial pain, neck pain, chewing difficulties, and tooth sensitivity. The problem is that those same issues can also be indicative of cavities, gum disease, and sinus problems such as allergies or a post-nasal drip. Dr. Warr will access your case by conducting a full neuromuscular examination to distinguish TMD from these other concerns.
The steps to your TMD diagnosis will likely include:
- A detailed medical history, such as health concerns, sicknesses, family history, medical conditions, and surgical procedures
- An overview of all of your symptoms
- A jaw examination for signs of popping, clicking, and discomfort or sensitivity in the TMJ
- A bit evaluation to check for misalignment that can make opening or closing your mouth difficult
- Scanning of your jaws, teeth, and gums with X-ray or other imaging technology
If our neuromuscular dentist diagnoses a TMJ Disorder, he will develop a comprehensive treatment plan to alleviate your symptoms.
Treatment for TMJ
Diagnosis is the first step toward treatment. The cause of TMD varies and is largely unclear, which can make diagnosis difficult. You may want to consult with a facial pain specialist or your general physician before beginning your TMD treatment. Neuromuscular dentistry helps your facial and jaw muscles find their optimal position. Through this, the occlusion or bite of the jaw is improved in order to eliminate the pain you are suffering.
Once Dr. Warr has determined what is causing your problems, he can begin explaining your possible solutions. TMJ treatments start with modifying your bite, and there are several treatments available once you’ve been diagnosed properly including:
- Pain Management: Applying moist heat to the areas causing you pain and/or taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen can lessen your discomfort.
- A Night Guard: If you grind or clench your teeth while you sleep, a night guard can stop you from doing so.
- Biofeedback: Stress can make your symptoms worsen and could be a contributing factor to your TMJ disorder. Stress management through relaxation training can help alleviate some of your symptoms.
- Orthodontic Intervention: A misaligned bite can cause TMD. Correcting the alignment of your jaw and teeth with orthodontics could ease your pain.
- Full Mouth Restoration: Restoring problems with your teeth and jaw can alleviate TMD/TMJ symptoms such as replacing missing teeth and addressing worn teeth.
Dr. Warr then considers a number of factors to determine what type of TMD treatment is best for you. Most importantly, the extent of the disorder, your age, and overall health will be considered when he develops a strategic plan for your optimal oral health.
The Relationship Between TMJ/TMD and Headaches and Migraines
Tension-type headaches and migraines can be a warning sign of TMD. Head pain is one of the top complaints we hear from our TMD patients. If your head pain hasn’t responded to traditional treatments for headaches or migraines, then you may have a TMJ Disorder. Since TMD can cause headaches and migraines, medications such as Topamax and Imitrex are not long-term solutions to migraine-type pain. They often only mask the symptoms and offer limited assistance.
It has been established that more than 85 percent of the pain in the head and neck area is from muscles being overstrained in the area. Restoring your muscles to a balanced and healthy relationship can provide longer-term, and sometimes permanent, relief from migraines.
Dr. Warr has treated several migraine patients through the use of neuromuscular dentistry techniques. Some types of migraines include hemiplegic migraine, retinal migraine, and migraine with and without aura.
Schedule Your Neuromuscular Evaluation in Salt Lake City
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms discussed above, you may have a TMJ Disorder. Schedule your neuromuscular evaluation with our experienced TMJ specialist in Salt Lake City today at (801) 216-3713 or schedule a virtual consultation. Warr Dental serves patients in nearby areas of Salt Lake City including Midvale and West Jordan, Utah.