If you’ve been having pain in the jaw or have been experiencing problems opening and closing your mouth, you might need the help of a dental professional right away. Problems in the functioning of the jawbone could be an indication of a TMJ disorder. It might seem like a minor problem initially, especially if the pain is not severe, but it could be critical, more so if you prolong treatment.
At La Puente Advanced Dentistry, we offer specialized treatment to all dental patients, including those requiring TMJ/TMD treatment in La Puente, CA. Our highly skilled and experienced dentists will offer the proper diagnosis and recommend the right treatment to help you manage the pain and treat the cause of the disorder. Our goal is to ensure that you enjoy excellent oral health without discomfort or any risk of dental damage.
TMJ/TMD is a disorder that affects your temporomandibular joint, popularly known as the TMJ. The joint connects the bone to your skull, acting like a sliding hinge. A human being has only one joint on each side of their jaw. A problem with this joint could cause you pain in the jaw joint. Pain could spread to other muscles that control your jaw movement. If left untreated, the pain could escalate and result in other dental and health problems. That is why it is advisable to seek dental treatment as soon as you experience pain in your jaw joint.
TMD has no exact cause. Therefore, it is difficult to tell exactly what caused the disorder that caused your pain. It could be one or a combination of several factors, like arthritis, genetics, and traumatic injury to the jaw. Some people who experience jaw pain are in the habit of grinding or clenching their teeth. But it doesn’t mean that you could suffer TMD disorder if you habitually clench or grind your teeth. Several other factors could come into play since TMD doesn’t have a definite cause.
In some instances, the discomfort and pain associated with TMD are temporary and could be relieved with self-care at home. Only extreme cases of the disorder may require surgical intervention. Your dentist will conduct an in-depth examination of your jaw joints to determine the nature of the problem and the kind of treatment you require. Dentists recommend surgery as the last resort after other conservative measures have failed to yield the required results. However, if your dentist feels that you could benefit more from surgical treatment, he/she will recommend it right away.
Proper diagnosis and treatment of TMD are necessary if you want the discomfort and pain to go away. It could happen during your regular dental visits or as soon as you experienced pain in your jaw. A prosthodontist or an oral and maxillofacial specialist will take care of your treatment and management of TMD. You might first require pain management treatment before the actual treatment if the pain is severe.
Causes of TMJ Disorder
As previously mentioned, TMD doesn’t have an exact cause. Dental experts hold that the pain or discomfort could result from different problems that affect your jaw muscles and other parts of the temporomandibular joint. For instance, an injury to your jawbone, head muscles, and TMJ, including a heavy blow or whiplash, could result in TMD/TMJ disorder. Other causes could be:
Bruxism is a well-known cause of many dental problems, including TMD/TMJ. Clenching or grinding your teeth puts a lot of pressure on your jaw joint and could be the reason why you’re experiencing pain and discomfort. When your TMJ experiences a lot of pressure, it could lead to clicking, popping, jaw locking, headaches, facial pain, and even earaches. It is best to have the pain checked before the joint experiences more damage.
The pain could also become unbearable with continuous grinding and clenching of teeth. You could develop chronic facial pain that could last more than six months, experienced dental fractures, migraines, and chronic TMJ issues if you don’t stop clenching or grinding your teeth.
Arthritis of the TMJ
Traumatic arthritis, infectious arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and secondary degenerative arthritis can all affect your TMJ. The infection could result in pain and discomfort. Treatment for TMJ arthritis will depend on the kind of arthritis and symptoms you’re experiencing.
The relation or fit of a person’s upper and lower teeth is essential. A good bite occurs when your upper and lower teeth fit together when you bite down. An unhealthy bite, one in which your teeth do not fit perfectly together, could be the cause of the many dental problems you’re experiencing, including TMJ disorders.
An unhealthy bite is associated with TMD. It could be the cause of strain in your temporomandibular joint and muscles. When your bite is healthy, the entire temporomandibular system enjoys stability. But if your upper teeth do not come together with the lower teeth, your jawbone does not rest into your TMJ in the proper position that creates stability. It could result in various dental symptoms and problems.
Misaligned teeth are the main reason many people are experiencing dental problems related to an unhealthy bite. Some people have lost a tooth or caused one or more teeth to shift due to an unhealthy bite.
If a malocclusion is causing you TMD, your dentist will recommend treatment to take care of the pain and discomfort on your jaw and different treatments to correct the bad bite.
Muscle Spasms or Pain
Displacement of the TMJ disc could cause an unhealthy bite, causing your jaw muscles to work harder than expected. When you overwork the chewing muscles, they could develop lactic acid, become stiff and painful. The more you chew, the worse it becomes. The continued contraction of muscles could result in tissue damage, tenderness, and pain. Consequently, you experience stress, tenseness and feel miserable, resulting in TMD.
Other causes of TMJ Disorder
- Gum chewing
- Injury on the teeth from a traumatic blow to your face
- Stress could cause you to tighten your facial and jaw muscles or clench your teeth
- Poor posture
- Disc movement — The soft layer between your TMJ ball and socket
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
Pain and discomfort around your jawbone joint are the main symptoms of TMJ disorder. Your temporomandibular joint is usually found right before your ears. Thus, any TMJ-related pain will affect your eye, ear, neck, forehead, and both sides of your face. Pain could be mild or intense. I could also be short-term or long-term. Therefore, TMJ disorder is hard to go unnoticed and could even be harder to ignore. Other signs you should be on the lookout for include:
- Pain or tenderness in your jawbone, especially at the joint, on your face, neck, and shoulders. Pain could extend to your ear, mainly when you chew or open your mouth to speak.
- Crepitus when you open the mouth or chew — You could experience popping, clicking, or grating of your jawbone joint. It could be painful or not.
- Earache and a cracking sound in the ears — You could experience tinnitus as well, like a ringing or popping sound in the ears.
- Blurred vision
- Toothache-like pain
- Muscle spasms in the jawbone
- Neck pain, headaches, and migraines
- Stiff, sore, and tight jaw and neck muscles
- Pain under your tongue
- Facial, cheek, mouth, and jaw pain, accompanied by numbness or tingling on the chin.
- Problems chewing or opening your mouth — You could experience an unexpected discomfort when you bite as if your upper or lower teeth are not fitting together.
- A swelling, lump, or aching in your temple area
- Pain in the upper part of your shoulders
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Swelling on both sides of your face
- Locking or dislocation of your jawbone — Mainly after yawning or opening your mouth widely (The condition is called lockjaw).
- Difficulties opening and closing your mouth, however slight
- Tiredness around your face
- Hearing difficulties.
TMJ disorder symptoms are pretty diverse, affecting the different areas served by the largest facial nerve, the trigeminal nerve. It is the nerve that connects the entire human face and head. The trigeminal nerve is both a sensory and motor nerve and has three divisions on each side of the head, namely the maxillary, mandibular and ophthalmic nerves.
- The maxillary nerve serves the cheeks, upper jaw, lower nose, and a section of the temples.
- The mandibular nerve serves the other part of the temples, the lower jawbone, and part of the ears.
- The ophthalmic nerve serves the upper nose, your eyes, the forehead, and your head’s crown.
All these parts are connected with sub-branches, which constantly send sensory data to your brain. A problem in your jawbone puts pressure on one or more of these parts, causing pain to various parts other than the ailing jawbone. When one area of the larger nerve is affected, all the parts served by the same nerve are affected. That is why you could have pain in more than one area with TMJ disorder.
Risk Factors for TMD
Anyone can experience a TMJ disorder at one time or the other in their life. However, some people are at a greater risk of experiencing TMD than others, for instance:
- People with any type of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
- People who have experienced jaw injury
- People with a long-term history of or chronic clenching or grinding of teeth
- People with medical issues affecting specific connective tissues that could trigger problems and affect the temporomandibular joint
When To Seek Help
It is always advisable to seek dental help when you experience a problem with your teeth, gums, or jawbone, however minor the problem might be. Some of the major dental issues we have today start slowly and escalate fast if they are not treated on time. It is the same with TMJ disorder. It is best to seek a dentist’s help as soon as you begin experiencing persistent pain or tenderness in your jawbone or when you can’t open and close your jawbone completely. Well-trained and experienced dentists will offer proper diagnosis to determine the actual problem, then recommend the proper treatment right away.
During the first appointment with your dentist, you could be asked several questions. Our answers will give your dentist a clearer picture of the actual problem and your medical history. For instance, you could be asked when you started experiencing the pain or tenderness on your jawbone. Your dentist will also seek to find whether you have had similar symptoms in the past. It is essential to let your dentist know of any current or recent treatment and dental care history.
TMJ Disorder Diagnosis
Your medical history is not sufficient for your dentist to diagnose TMJ disorder. Note that TMD symptoms are the same for several other medical conditions like gum disease and sinus problems. Thus, your dentist will also conduct a physical exam to rule out all the other problems. Since there are diverse symptoms for TMJ disorder, no particular test could help diagnose the condition. Therefore, your dentist will rely on his/her skills and experience to provide a conclusive diagnosis.
The physical examination will include checking your jaw joints for pain or tenderness. He/she will listen for any popping, grating, or clicking sounds as you open and close your mouth. Your dentist will check the functionality of your jawbone and whether or not it closes when you open or close your mouth. He will check your bite too, and any issues you might have with your facial muscles.
Sometimes your dentist could order a face X-ray to view the condition of your temporomandibular joints, jaws, and teeth to establish the exact dental issues you are having. You could be asked to undergo CT scanning or even a complete MRI to show more precise details of your TMJ and the position of your joint disc.
Once the diagnosis is complete, your dentist will send you to a maxillofacial surgeon for more diagnosis, treatment, and management.
Treatment for TMJ Disorder
Medical treatment for TMJ disorder could take many forms, depending on the underlying cause and your symptoms. Some of its common treatments include:
Medications to relieve your symptoms, including:
- Pain and swelling medications
- Muscle relaxant to help your jaws relax if you are in the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth
- Anti-anxiety drugs to help relieve the stress that could cause TMD
- Anti-inflammatory medications if your jaw joint is inflamed
Non-medical therapies including:
- A dental splint or night guard — They are plastic mouthpieces to reduce the effect of teeth grinding or clenching. They could also correct a bad bite.
- Physical therapy and jawbone exercises to help improve flexibility and strengthen your jaw muscles
- Transcutaneous electrical stimulation of nerves — To help relieve pain and relax your jaw joint and facial muscles.
Surgical Procedures for the Most Severe TMJ Disorders
Surgery is usually the last resort after all other treatment procedures have failed. Surgery is recommended for the severest cases of TMJ disorder. Three main surgical procedures that your oral surgeon could recommend are:
The surgery is conducted using an arthroscope, an instrument with a lens and light that could help your dentist view the inside of your jaw joint. It is conducted under general anesthesia. After administering anesthesia, the oral surgeon will make an opening at the front of your ear, where he/she inserts the instrument. Next, the surgeon will attach a video monitor to examine your joint and the areas around it. If the cause of the disorder is an inflamed joint, he/she will extract the inflamed tissues. And if the cause is due to a misaligned joint or disc, the surgeon will realign it.
Your dentist could recommend this procedure if you have locked jaw bones but don't have a significant history of TMJ disorder. It’s a minor procedure that the surgeon could conduct in a dentist’s office. It is also done under general anesthesia. The surgeon completes the procedure by inserting needles into your jaw joint to wash it. He/she could use a special instrument to dislodge your jaw disc or extract any damaged tissues.
It is the right procedure if any of the following is true:
- Your temporomandibular joint is scarred or full of chipped bone
- You’ve developed tumors in or around the joint
- The bone structure of your jaw is wearing away
Your surgeon will administer general anesthesia before the procedure. He/she will open the entire area surrounding your temporomandibular joint to have a complete and better view. The surgeon will then clean out any infected tissues or correct any misalignment causing you pain or discomfort.
Find a La Puente Dentist Near Me
Your dental health is essential if you care about your general wellbeing. Thus, it is crucial to be on the lookout for signs that something could be wrong with your teeth, gums, or jawbone. Pain and tenderness in your jaw and the surrounding areas could indicate TMJ disorder. Proper diagnosis and treatment are needed to treat the cause and symptoms of TMJ disorder. In La Puente Advanced Dentistry, you can count on our specialized skills and experience for a complete restoration of your oral health. Call us at 626-626-7075 if you are experiencing any TMJ/TMD symptoms to book an appointment right away.