When people say “I have TMJ” they most often mean that they are suffering from a disorder of their TMJ system. Your temporomandibular joints, also known as TMJ, make it possible to open and close your mouth. Your TMJ, which are located on either side of your skull, move in tandem when you chew, speak or swallow and include muscles and ligaments in addition to the jaw bone. Your TMJ also controls the mandible — your lower jaw– as it moves forward, backward and side to side.
Each TMJ has a disc of cartilage between the ball and socket of the joint. This sponge-y material supports your jaw while enabling the jaw to open wide and rotate or glide. Any problem that prevents this complicated system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working properly can be called a TMJ disorder. Dentists like Dr. John C. Cranham of Chesapeake, VA can diagnose and treat this problem to alleviate the discomfort and stop the progression of dental issues that TMJ disorders can bring on.
Common Causes of TMJ Disorder
There is no single cause for TMJ dysfunction. Any number of factors or combination of factors may be to blame including:
- Trauma to the head, neck, or face
- Trauma to the TMJ joint or arthritis
- Hormonal changes or imbalances
- Malocclusion (where the jaws do not line up correctly resulting in bite problems)
How is TMJ Diagnosed?
A dental appointment to diagnose the issue is needed before treatment can begin. A typical dental exam includes the dentist checking the joints and muscles of the jaw for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving.
Depending on the severity of your condition, Dr. Cranham may refer you to a physician or a dental specialist for more advanced treatment.
How is TMJ Treated?
For basic cases, there are several methods of treatments available for TMJ disorders. These recommendations allow you to try simple solutions at home before moving on to more involved treatment. These steps are a “less is more” approach in treating TMJ disorders, which includes:
- Eating softer foods
- Avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
- Applying heat packs to the pain
- Practicing relaxation techniques to alleviate tension in the jaw, including meditation or biofeedback.
If your symptoms are more severe, the following treatments may be recommended by Dr. Cranham:
- Exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles
- Medications prescribed by your dentist; such as muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-
- Anxiety drugs or anti-inflammatory medications
- A mouth guard or bite plate to reduce clenching or grinding of teeth.
TMJ Treatment in Norfolk
In some cases, your dentist may recommend correct an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping some teeth. Orthodontic treatment may even be recommended if necessary. Dr. Cranham can suggest the most appropriate therapy based on the determined cause. As the Clinical Director of The Dawson Academy, Dr. Cranham has contributed to the latest information in regards to the diagnosis and treatment of bite problems and TMJ related issues. If you are in the Chesapeake, VA area and think you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, any other dental ailment or just need a cleaning or consultation, please call 757.656.4109to schedule with Dr. Cranham or schedule with our office online.