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What is TMJ and How is it Treated?

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You have probably heard someone say “I have TMJ.” What he or she really means is that they are suffering from a TMJ disorder. Your temporomandibular joints, called TMJ, make opening and closing your mouth possible. Your TMJ are located on either side of your skull and work as a team when you chew, speak or swallow.

They include the jawbone as well as the muscles and ligaments attached. Your TMJ also controls your lower jaw- also known as your mandible- as it moves forward, backward and side to side.

Each TMJ has a disc of cartilage between the ball and socket of the joint. The disc supports the load 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. Glen Wainwright of Austin Dental Care in Austin, TX can diagnose and treat this problem to alleviate the discomfort and stop the progression of dental issues that TMJ disorders can bring on.

What Causes TMJ Disorders (TMD)?

Possible causes of TMJ disorders include:

  • Arthritis
  • Dislocation
  • Injury
  • Alignment of jaw and teeth
  • Teeth grinding due to stress

How is TMJ Diagnosed?

A dentist must diagnose the issue before treatment can begin. A typical dental examination includes checking the joints and muscles of the jaw for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty of motion.

Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, Dr. Wainwright 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 for TMJ disorders. This step-by-step plan allows you to try simple remedies at home before moving on to more involved treatment. These steps advocate for 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. Wainwright:

  • 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.

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. Wainwright can suggest the most appropriate therapy based on the determined cause.  If you are in the Austin, TX area and think you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, any other dental ailment or just need a cleaning or consultation, please call 512-518-6392 to schedule with Dr. Wainwright at Austin Dental Care or schedule with our office online.