Temporomandibular Joint disorder is a big mouthful, so we call it TMJ disorder for short. This muscle disorder occurs when the nerves in the muscles on either side of your head become exposed due to an improper bite, teeth grinding, and/or stress. It is incredibly painful and makes it feel impossible to speak, swallow, chew, or eat. There are over three million cases of TMJ disorder that occur every year, and most of the time they could have been prevented in the beginning stages if only the patients had done one thing: made an appointment for a routine checkup with their dentist. Below, we are going to share with you some of the ways you can tell if you have TMJ disorder, how we go about treating it, and what happens if you leave TMJ unchecked.
Diagnosing TMJ Disorder
Luckily, TMJ disorder is easy to self-diagnose. If you have had any of the following symptoms, it may be time to go see a dentist about getting treated for TMJ:
- Pain around the ears and jaw when chewing
- Pressure behind the eyes or in other areas of the face
- Persisting headaches or migraines
- Facial swelling or tenderness
- Ear ringing
- Jaw locking when open or closed
As you can imagine, these symptoms can be extremely painful and incredibly debilitating which is why it is important to dentists that they catch the symptoms of TMJ disorder early on before they worsen. Typically, a dentist can detect the early signs of TMJ disorder via X-Ray or if their patients describe any of these aforementioned symptoms to them.
However, if you’ve started already experiencing some of the symptoms of TMJ before your dentist could catch it, do not worry. There are a variety of treatments that your dentist can prescribe to you for TMJ depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Treating TMJ Disorder
As far as non-surgical treatment goes for TMJ disorder, dentists can prescribe certain medications or types of physical therapy and recommend making a few small lifestyle changes to their patients to help reduce their TMJ symptoms over time.
There are several different types of medications your dentist may prescribe for TMJ disorder. They may start you out on an anti-inflammatory pain reliever, like Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen. However, if your pain is worse, they may opt for something with a bit more strength such as a muscle relaxant or even a tricyclic antidepressant. These antidepressants have been known to help with jaw grinding in addition to their primary target of treatment: depression or anxiety.
Dentists may also recommend their patients do some form of physical therapy in the process of recovering from their TMJ disorder. This may mean doing actual physical stretches with the jaw and treating the affected areas with moist heat and ice. Dentists may give their patients an oral splint or mouth guard to wear to prevent teeth grinding as well.
Lifestyle changes may also be necessary in preventing a patient’s TMJ disorder from worsening. Such lifestyle changes could be avoiding chewing gum or hard candies, taking smaller bites of food at meals, and alternating between chewing on either side of the mouth.
There are also a few surgical treatments that can be performed on patients with severe TMJ disorder, but these are rarely used. Most of these non-surgical treatments for TMJ disorder seem to work just fine for patients.
Leaving TMJ Disorder Untreated
Leaving TMJ disorder untreated does more than just perpetuate the patient’s worsening pain. Many TMJ patients will begin to eat less due to the level of intense pain that comes with chewing and swallowing, which can contribute to malnutrition. This leads to a variety of different problems in the body including a lowered immune system, muscle atrophy, and dizziness. This can be dangerous for TMJ patients since one of their initial side-effects of their disorder is dizziness already. TMJ patients also experience a level of inner-imbalance due to their disorder, which can permeate in issues with posture and mobility. Not to mention, the constant grinding of their teeth will also lead to premature tooth wear. You can clearly see now why it is so important to get TMJ disorder treated as soon as symptoms begin to show or outright prevent it from ever spreading in the first place.
Knoxville Dentist with Experience in TMJ Disorder
What is the easiest way to prevent TMJ disorder? Make routine appointments with your dental care specialist. University General Dentists always evaluates their patients for TMJ disorder at their regular dental exams and has been trusted in providing quality care and treatment for TMJ (and more) for over 20 years. If you’re looking for a new family dentist in the local Knoxville area who can treat all your household’s needs from surgical to cosmetic dentistry, give University General Dentist a visit at one of our two convenient locations in West Knoxville or by UT Medical Center. Schedule an appointment with us by phone at (865) 500-5700 or (865) 305-9440. We are more than ready to serve you and your family!