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Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are conditions that affect the jaw joint and the surrounding muscles that control its movement. It is characterized primarily by persistent pain in the areas of the jaw, cheeks, temples, ears, and neck. Other symptoms also include popping or clicking sound when the mouth is opened or closed and limited movement of the jaw joint. We, at Aurora Dental Care, encourage patients who are experiencing these symptoms to come to our office for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosing TMJ Disorder
TMJ disorders can be categorized into muscle problems that affect jaw mobility, pain in the face area and the surrounding jaw joint, and issues within the joint itself. Given these issues, accurate diagnosis is critical for treatment planning.
We, at the clinic, carry out several procedures to correctly diagnose this disorder. One of these steps includes taking note of all the symptoms being experienced by the patient and how long he or she has been experiencing them. We also take a detailed record of the medical history of the patient to rule out certain symptoms that may not be attributable to TMJ disorder. For instance, facial pain is a symptom of many kinds of disorder such as ear infection or other types of headaches. By knowing the medical history of the patient, we can accurately diagnose TMJ.
We also examine the affected areas like the head, jaw, face, and neck closely to check for soreness or inflammation, among others. We may also request x-rays or scans if there is a need to look at the structure more thoroughly. Only after all the results of these procedures are done can we determine the TMJ disorder and discuss treatment options with our patient.
Conservative TMJ Treatments
Most cases of TMJ disorders get better with simple treatments that focus primarily on alleviating pain and inflammation. We usually prescribe medications to address specific symptoms. For muscle pain and swelling, we ask the patient to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen. To loosed tight jaw muscles, a symptom most common among teeth grinders, we may prescribe muscle relaxants to counter the tightness. Since stress and anxiety also cause TMJ disorders, we may also prescribe antianxiety and antidepressant medicines temporarily to help a patient with high stress and anxiety levels.
Bruxism or teeth grinding is one of the most common causes of TMJ, which is why we also provide splints to our patients who are habitual grinders and clenchers. A splint is like a mouth guard that relieves pressure from the jaw joints to help the muscles in the area relax and heal.
Other TMJ Treatment Options
Depending on the symptoms and the response of the patient to the basic treatments, other TMJ treatment interventions are available should the basic treatments are not enough. These treatment options include transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy, ultrasound, and trigger point injections. Should pain and functional problems persist after trying out all other treatment interventions, we may also consider surgery as a last resort.
Call us at Aurora Dental Care today if you want to know more about TMJ disorders and for a free consultation at 907-376-8400.