Effective Treatment for TMJ Disorder


Illustration of man's jawbone in contrast to other featuresEvery year, more than 3 million cases of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder are diagnosed in the U.S. This group of disorders, often simply referred to as TMD, are associated with problems in the TMJ that interfere with jaw function. There are several causes, as well as symptoms, possibly indicating you may have the disorder. Patients may have trouble speaking, eating, and making facial expressions. They may also experience tenderness and pain in the jaw and facial area, which can be severe. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of TMJ disorder and you reside near Brooklyn Heights, NYC, Dr. Eugene D. Stanislaus can help you find a solution. To learn more, schedule an appointment with Dr. Stanislaus today.

What is TMJ Disorder?

Located on each side of the head in front of the ears, the TMJ connects the jaw to the skull. These joints make it possible to open and close your mouth, move your jaw forward and backward, and slide the jaw from from side to side. Each joint contains a shock-absorbing disc that ensures smooth movement as you speak, swallow, and chew. The TMJ is responsible for the complex functioning of your jaw, and it is made of tissue that is different than other load-bearing joints in your body. Disorders related to the TMJ can be extremely challenging for patients and their healthcare providers. When problems occur in its vicinity, it is often hard to determine the cause. Symptoms may overlap with other health conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, and they can flare up and dissipate over time. The pain that the patient is experiencing may also be coming from more than one source.

Image of TMJ disorder symptoms

TMJ disorder can cause a host of painful symptoms.

Symptoms

Symptoms of TMD can vary widely. Problems may affect both sides of your face or just one and include:

  • Discomfort near the jaw joint, around the ears, and in the neck and shoulders when you move your jaw
  • Problems with opening or closing the mouth completely
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Clicking, grating, or popping sounds that originate in the jaw joint
  • Jaws that lock up
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Aching pain in the facial area
  • Swelling on the sides of the face
  • Toothaches
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

Potential Causes

The exact cause of TMD is not known. However, it is generally agreed that an injury to your head, neck, jaw, or the TMJ can result in TMD. Less obviously, symptoms can come from putting pressure on the joint by clenching or grinding your teeth. Arthritis may damage the joint’s cartilage, which covers the bones that interact with the joint. The cushioning disc can also erode or slip out of place.

What Leads to TMJ Disorder?

There are a number of factors that may contribute to the development of TMJ disorder. Possible causes include:

  • Slipped disc: If the soft, cushioning disc inside your joint slips out of place, your jaw will grind together painfully every time you open or close your mouth.
  • Arthritis: Similarly, if your cartilage starts to wear away, it will make your joints rub together. The friction can further damage the TMJ and lead to muscle inflammation.
  • Facial injury: A blow to the face can cause structural damage to the joint, or cause the disc to slip out of place.
  • Bruxism: Chronic teeth grinding and clenching can place tremendous strain on your jaw, inflaming surrounding muscles.
  • Orthodontic issues and missing teeth: If you have crooked teeth or gaps in your smile, it may lead to an imbalanced bite that places pressure on your jaw joints.
  • Whiplash: Whiplash can alter your spinal alignment. In turn, this will change how you hold your head, and it could compress your jaw joints.
  • Hormones: Many believe that female hormonal changes can raise your risk of TMJ disorder, although scientists continue to investigate the connection.

In some cases, the cause of TMD is unknown.

Diagnosis

Even when the cause of a patient’s TMD is not clear, the disorder can be diagnosed and treated. Dr. Stanislaus will take a detailed account of your medical and dental history and attempt to rule out other known causes of your symptoms. These could include sinus and ear infections, issues with the teeth, and facial neuralgia (nerve-related facial pain). He will also perform a physical exam which may include observing your jaw’s range of motion, listening for sounds, and pressing on different areas to identify the location of discomfort. X-rays or other imaging techniques, such as a computer tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be ordered to find problems with the teeth or within the joint, jawbones, or disc.

What to Do If You Are Suffering from TMJ Disorder

Based on the results of these tests, Dr. Stanislaus will develop your treatment plan. We will always begin with the simplest and least invasive option. He may first want to monitor you to see if the symptoms persist, and you may also want to attempt lifestyle changes and home remedies initially. These can include avoiding the overuse of your jaw muscles and using moist heat or cold packs. Jaw strengthening exercises and other types of physical therapy are often effective. He may also suggest that you try over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen to alleviate pain and swelling. Stress reduction and relaxation techniques may also be beneficial.

If these are not sufficient, there are a number of other treatments available. These may include prescription medications such as a stronger pain reliever, muscle relaxer, or anti-anxiety medication. You can also try using a night guard or splint to reposition your teeth and reduce the effects of clenching or grinding. These devices will realign your jaw to reduce pressure on the joints. If non-surgical therapies offer no relief, your dentist may suggest surgery. 

Eliminate Jaw Pain and Discomfort with TMJ Disorder Surgery

Physicians in an operating room.If conservative therapies have not been successful, and you can no longer bear the headaches or jaw pain related to TMJ disorder, a more extensive treatment such as TMJ disorder surgery may be the best solution. Dr. Stanislaus can explain the surgery options available for TMJ disorder. Contact Brooklyn Heights Dental today to learn how you can eliminate the unpleasant side effects of a misaligned jaw.

What are My Surgery Options?

Surgery is often recommended for severe cases of TMJ disorder, when less invasive options have failed. Patients whose jaws are dislocated, severely worn down, or cannot open are candidates for TMJ disorder surgery. Depending on the severity of your case, we may recommend one of three surgical procedures:

Arthrocentesis: This minor procedure is usually enough to correct locked jaws in patients who have no major history of TMJ disorder. Dr. Stanislaus will insert needles into the jaw joint to thoroughly wash the joint with sterile solution. This should help increase mobility, and remove any excess scar tissue. A lubricant or medication may also be injected into the affected area at this time, depending on your case. Dr. Stanislaus can also remove damaged tissue or dislodge a stuck disc or joint, if necessary. The surgery is performed under light anesthesia, and can usually be completed in our office

Arthroscopy: Rather than opening up the entire joint to operate, we can use an arthroscope to guide the surgery. An arthroscope is a small camera that will be inserted through a small incision, allowing us to see the joint using a video monitor. Dr. Stanislaus will then correct your misalignment by either removing damaged or loose tissue or realigning the joint. There are fewer complications with this procedure than a more extensive surgery. There is also a short recovery period and smaller scars. This procedure is typically done in an outpatient facility at a hospital, under general anesthesia.

Open joint surgery: Sometimes called arthroplasty, this procedure involves opening the TMJ, to expose the jaw and realign the joint, remove damaged tissue, or repair the discs. While more invasive than other options, open joint surgery may be necessary if there are tumors, severe scarring, bone chips, or if the jaw is severely worn. Patients can expect a longer recovery period and larger scars with this procedure. Open joint surgery is typically done in an outpatient facility at a hospital, under general anesthesia.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Conservative, non-surgical treatments for TMJ disorder are typically favored, when possible. Common alternative treatments include:

  • Strengthening exercises: Physical therapy can help to strengthen the joint and prevent further damage.
  • Oral appliances: Mouth guards can help by gradually realigning your bite as you sleep, preventing unconscious grinding.
  • Dental work: Crowns, bridges, and braces can help realign your teeth and bite.
  • Reducing pain: Eating soft foods, medication, and applying heat or cold packs can help manage pain and inflammation.

Learn More

Dr. Stanislaus is committed to providing conservative yet comprehensive and effective care for his patients. To schedule a consultation, please contact our helpful staff today.

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"I've been very happy with my experiences at Dr. Stanislaus's office, and highly recommend him to anyone in the New York City area. He and his staff go above and beyond to do the best job possible."

-R.B. (Patient)

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