Dental care can involve so much more than just the health of your teeth. The soft tissues of your mouth and your jaw bone form an integral part of the overall structure of your oral cavity. Therefore, when you go to the dentist, we are not only assessing your teeth, but also your gums, bite alignment, and even your jaw joint.
The temporomandibular joint – also known as the TMJ for short – is the joint that connects the jaw bone to the skull, and there is one on either side of your face. It is also crucial to the way that your jaw opens and closes, and if it becomes damaged, it can severely inhibit your ability to eat, drink, swallow and speak properly.
TMJ disorders are surprisingly common, affecting as many as 30% of adults at some point during their lifetime. While many patients who experience mild issues with their TMJ will find that the problem resolves itself without the need for professional intervention, more serious cases or those which are recurring. The cases often require the advice and assistance of a qualified and experienced dentist, like Dr. Yoon Choi at Smile by Choice in Manhanttan, NY.
What causes TMJ problems?
Although there may be occasions where the exact cause of a problem with the TMJ cannot be identified, there are some groups of people who are more likely to experience TMJ disorder. These include patients who:
- suffer from bruxism (unconscious grinding or clenching of the teeth)
- have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis
- have an uneven bite that places an uneven pressure across the jaw
- suffer from conditions such as fibromyalgia or gout
How do I know if I am suffering from a problem with my temporomandibular joint?
Patients who have a problem with their TMJ may not have initially have any obvious symptoms. However, as the condition worsens you may notice:
- persistent headaches
- pain in the muscles in and around the jaw
- pain the front of the ear, which may then radiate to the cheeks and temples
- a feeling that your hearing is blocked
- persistent earaches
- a clicking, popping or grinding noise when you move your jaw, particularly when making bigger movements such as yawning or biting
- a jaw that feels stiff or hard to open
- swelling in the face and neck
What treatment is available for TMJ problems?
If you have been diagnosed with TMJ disorder, you will undoubtedly want to know what treatment options may be available to you. Like many joint and muscle problems, issues with the TMJ are normally addressed using a combination of different therapies. However, in some circumstances, you may find that one specific treatment provides enough relief from the condition for you to be able to use your jaw properly.
By far the most common cause of TMJ problems is an uneven bite. This is the way that your teeth come together when you close your jaw. Orthodontic treatment such as braces or Invisalign can help to address bite problems, improving the balance of pressure placed on the jaw when it is closed.
If you suffer from bruxism, a night guard could be extremely beneficial. Not only will it prevent your teeth from eroding, but it will also reduce the pressure on your jaw, thus also reducing the wear and tear on the TMJ joint. You may see a dramatic improvement in your symptoms, particularly any headaches or jaw aches that you are experiencing.
Heat/cold therapy and joint manipulation
Alternating hot and cold is a well-known treatment for a wide range of joint and muscle problems, and used in combination with physical therapy (in the form of joint manipulation) can prove to be a successful treatment for TMJ disorders.
There are a variety of over-the-counter and prescription medicines that may help to reduce the symptoms associated with TMJ disorder. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Your dentist will be able to recommend which may be most beneficial for you.
BOTOX® & Dermal Fillers
While BOTOX® is more commonly used for cosmetic concerns, like wrinkles, its ability to temporarily block muscle contractions and nerve impulses, allows it to be an effective treatment for jaw disorders. BOTOX® treatments can be injected in the muscles in and around your mouth to correct a number of oral health issues, including TMJ disorder and bruxism. These injections are quick treatments, and the end results can last for several months afterwards. Dr. Choi is a qualified BOTOX® and dermal filler provider, and a cosmetic dentist with extensive training concerning disorders around the head, neck, face, mouth, and jaw.
Our friendly and knowledgeable dentist, Dr. Yoon Choi has extensive experience in diagnosing and successfully treating TMJ disorder. To find out more about problems with the temporomandibular joint, or to arrange your consultation with Dr. Choi, please call our Manhattan office today at 917-412-2334.