Do you often experience chewing problems, headaches, or pain in the socket behind the ear involved in opening and closing the jaw? These problems could indicate Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), otherwise known as Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder. You might experience dizziness or pain in the neck and use home remedies like painkillers to relieve the pain. Still, if the problem doesn’t go away, you should immediately seek help from a dentist to prevent jaw movement challenges, which could adversely affect your routines.

If you have tried everything to relieve the TMJ/TMD pain in Carson, Washington Dental provides the right treatment for your problem even when other remedies fail. We will provide obstructive but productive treatment to alleviate the TMJ pain and restore your jaws’ natural functionality.

What are TMJ/TMD Disorders?

Your TMJ is a hinge that links your jawbone to temporal bones in the skull. The joint facilitates the movement of your jawbone side to side or up and down, enabling you to chew, talk or yawn. When the TMJ, ligaments, and jaw muscles fail to work together due to harm or damage, it results in TMD.

What Causes TMD?

TMD causes are not very clearly understood, but based on several kinds of research, specific factors contribute to this syndrome. These are:

1.  Bite Problems

A bad bite causes a TMJ syndrome when the upper and lower teeth fail to touch in a fashion that enables the lower jaw to brace the temporomandibular joint in the right position. The leading cause of bite problems or malocclusions is misalignment, wear and tear caused by teeth grinding or missing teeth that cause the remaining teeth to move from their sockets. Therefore, if you find that when your lower and upper teeth meet, they don’t provide a safe meeting, the temporomandibular system will remain unstable, and this might result in TMD, meaning you should seek help from a general dentist right away.

2.  Muscle Pain

Displacement of the TMJ muscle might stress your muscles by causing them to work harder than required, resulting in the accumulation of lactic acid, making the jaw muscles stiff and painful.

Adults swallow an average of six hundred to one thousand occasions per day. Because the upper and lower teeth brace whenever you swallow, if you are having malocclusions, you will experience severe muscle convulsions, muscle pain, tenderness, or injury because of the constant contraction.

Other causes of TMD include:

  • Teeth clenching and grinding which exerts extreme pressure on the joints
  • Arthritis to the Temporomandibular joint
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Oral infections
  • Oral surgery
  • Stress, which results in tightening of the jaw or facial muscles

Some professionals like violinists are also likely to develop TMD because they hold the instrument on the jaw, causing strain in the long run, thus increasing the risk of violinists developing TMD than the general public.

Hormonal changes can also cause TMJ syndrome because observations show women experience TMD cases more than men.

What are the Symptoms of TMD?

The primary indicator of a TMJ condition is a pain in the jawbone hinge usually felt during movement. You might also experience headaches, pain around the ear that spreads to the cheeks, backache, or neckache. If your dentist locates the pain around the jawbone, they will look out for other symptoms of the illness.

You could also experience a popping or clicking noise when eating, yawning, or talking. However, this sound is not always an indication of TMD, especially if it is not associated with any pain.

Furthermore, if you experience buzzing or numbness in the ears alongside earaches, it could be an indication you are suffering from TMJ syndrome.

A restricted movement that prevents the jawbone from moving in a specific direction or the mouth from fully opening can also indicate that you are suffering from TMD.

Other symptoms of the disorder include:

  • Swelling on the side of the face
  • Sudden uncomfortable bites or chewing problems
  • Cracking sound in the ears
  • Loftier jostle pain
  • Dislocation of the lockjaw
  • A lamp or pain in the temple area
  • Pain below the tongue
  • Blurred vision
  • Overbite
  • Compressed lower face
  • Weak chin
  • Sleep disorder

Your whole face and head are stimulated or vitalized by the trigeminal or CN nerve, the greatest facial nerve that helps with motor and sensual function, meaning the symptoms of the disease are diverse. The nerve has three categories. One category is the maxillary covering the upper jaw, a part of the temple area, cheeks, and lower nose. The other branch is the jawline nerve that also shields some of your temple area, the lower jaw, and the ears. Last but not least is the optic nerve which protects the eyes, loftier nose, and forehead.

These branches have sub-branches whose work is to transmit information to the brain. Therefore, if you sustain injuries or damage to the jaw muscles, the muscles will swell, putting pressure on various nerves causing tremendous pain in the nerve area. Sometimes even when the swelling applies pressure to only one nerve, it impacts other nerves, and you might feel discomfort in multiple parts.

If you experience any of the above signs, like problems opening and closing your mouth wide or severe pain, you should see your dentist right away. Opening and closing your mouth fully causes the ligaments to tighten which restricts movement of facial muscles and the mouth. These professionals will examine the symptoms to establish the cause and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Making Ready Your TMD Specialist Meeting

When you pay a visit to your general dentist, they will discuss your symptoms first then recommend the right treatment options. If you need specialized care, they will recommend a TMD specialist who will address the problem in its entirety.

What Must You Look Forward to From Your Dental Expert?

During your visit to the dentist, they will want to understand whether the discomfort is persistent or the signs keep showing and disappearing. Further, they will ask if any of the activities you engage in is the source of your pain. They will also inquire if you're having problems opening your mouth.

More questions will come your way based on your answers, meaning you need to be prepared for these questions because the answers you give will guide the treatment.

TMD Diagnosis

Accurate diagnosis before starting TMD treatment is essential. The process is a sophisticated one, so it must be conducted by an oral surgeon or dentist specializing in jawbones, teeth, or mouth.

Many dental problems have similar symptoms as TMD syndrome. These conditions include tooth decay, periodontal disease, sinus issues, arthritis, unsuitable dentures, sore throat, salivary gland illness, and trigeminal neuralgia.

A proper diagnosis commences with the dentist inquiring about your health history then performing a thorough physical screening to establish the cause of the symptoms. The physical examination involves conducting a careful examination of the teeth and the functionality of the jaw and facial muscles. The jaws are examined to look for redness or listen to clicking or popping sounds whenever there is jaw movement.

Based on your condition, the dentist might order imaging like an X-ray of the teeth, temporomandibular joints, and jawbones to clear you of other dental issues.  Besides, they need to conduct further imaging tests like CT scans and MRI scans to cast the temporomandibular joint. CT imaging provides clear images of the skeletal information of these discs, while MRI imaging provides images to show the positioning of the disks.

To corroborate the diagnosis and offer additional treatment, they will send you to an oral surgeon whose expertise is surgery in the areas around the jaws, mouth, clearly cast or face. Additionally, they may send you to an orthodontic specialist to check if the teeth, joints, facial muscles, and ears work properly.

Home Remedies for TMD Syndrome

Relaxation, home treatments, and stress relief methods can help eliminate most of the symptoms. This means you can take care of the symptoms before seeing the dentist. Washington Dental recommends the following home remedies for TMD:

Stick to Soft Foods

Dentists advocate that you feed on soft foods like mashed potatoes, fish, scrambled eggs, soup, yogurt, cooked vegetables, grains, and beans. Avoid more chewing by cutting these foods into small pieces. Furthermore, you are encouraged to steer off crunchy and chewy foods or large bites that require you to open your mouth fully.

Using Over the Counter Medication

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and painkillers like acetaminophen and aspirin can reduce the swelling and alleviate the pain that TMD causes. Dentists propose that you purchase these OTC medications to treat some of the symptoms of the disease from home. However, if the swelling or the pain doesn’t go away, you should consider visiting your general dentist.

Try Out Various Relaxation Techniques

Sometimes the stress and anxiety associated with an oral problem can make your jawbones tight and sticky. When at home, the best remedy for this problem is to learn relaxation techniques like physical therapy and massage. Stress-relieving therapy and biofeedback can also help you relax and loosen your jaws.

Maintain Your Teeth Slightly Apart

Dentists encourage that when experiencing TMJ syndrome, you should avoid putting pressure on the jaws. The best way to achieve this is to keep your teeth somewhat apart by placing your tongue between the teeth. That way, you avoid grinding or clenching the teeth, preventing wear, cracking, or chipping of the teeth.

Do Not Rest Your Chin on the Hands

Facial and neck pain are very common when you have TMD. Luckily, you can prevent the pain by maintaining an appropriate posture and avoid holding your phone between the shoulder and the ear because this might trigger neck and facial discomfort.

Apply Moist Heat or Ice Packs

If you experience pain or swelling on the temple area or the cheek, you should use a cold or ice pack on the area for around ten minutes to alleviate the pain. Sometimes, you can stretch the jaws several times, but only if your dentist allows it. Once you are done with the stretching, apply moist heat on the face’s side for an average of five minutes and repeat the whole process every day until you heal.

Steer Off Extreme Jawbone Movement

Reduce all activities that require you to open your mouth fully or wide. These activities include singing, yawning, yelling, and chewing ice or gum.

Gently Stretch and Massage the Neck or Jaw

Contact your dentist or therapist whenever you are experiencing TMD symptoms at home to recommend appropriate physical therapy and stretches to relieve the symptoms.

Treatment Options for TMJ Condition

If the home remedies or treatments have not worked for you, then you should consider visiting your dentist in person to discuss tested and proven treatment options. Note that the majority of these treatments don’t cure TMD. Instead, they treat the symptoms and provide long-term relief. These options are:

1.  Medication Prescription

If you are dealing with pain and swelling, your dentist will prescribe higher doses of NSAIDs and muscle relaxers to loosen the jaws if you’re grinding and clenching the teeth. For stress-relieving, the dentist might authorize anti-anxiety drugs to relieve the stress that is often a cause of TMD. When used in lower doses, these medications can also manage or reduce the pain. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxers are all prescription drugs, meaning you must visit your dentist for a checkup, after which the medication is administered.

2.  Physical Therapies

Your dentist might suggest that you wear a night guard at night to prevent the lower and upper teeth from touching. These mouthpieces also prevent grinding and clasping teeth and correct malocclusions by putting the teeth in their right positions. If the grinding occurs all the time, even when awake, the dentist may recommend a splint to remedy the situation.

Another non-drug therapy that can help treat TMD is physiotherapy. The therapy involves jaw exercise to enhance flexibility, range of motion and strengthen the jaw muscles.

If the main symptom of TMD that you are experiencing is tremendous pain, the dentist might recommend biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy to alleviate the pain.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a form of non-drug therapy that utilizes low electric currents to reduce pain through facial and jaw muscle relaxation, can also be used as a treatment at your residence or in the dental office.

3.  Additional Treatments

If physical therapies and medication do not work, the dentist might recommend the following treatment options:

  • Trigger-point injection where a pain-relieving medication or anesthesia is injected in the trigger points reduces pain.
  • Dental work involving the dentist replacing extracted teeth and using dental crowns, bridges, and aligners to correct bite problems and balance the chewing surfaces of the teeth
  • Ultrasound where the dentist applies deep heat of the TMJ to reduce soreness and enhance mobility.
  • Medical marijuana prescription to alleviate extreme TMD pain
  • Radio wave therapy to relieve pain and enhance blood flow

4.  Surgical Procedure

If your condition has become severe, medication, non-drug therapies, and other treatments might not work. In cases like these, surgery for TMD can be the answer to your oral problems. However, before undergoing the treatment, it’s critical to speak to other dental experts and obtain their opinion regarding the best way out of the problem. Once a surgical procedure is undertaken, it cannot be undone. Therefore, it will not harm speaking to other dental professionals about your problem to ensure that surgery is the last resort.

When surgery is the only remaining option, the oral surgeon will recommend several TMD surgical procedures based on your problem. These are:

  • Arthroscopy — This is a surgical procedure that utilizes a particular device with a lens and light on it called the arthroscope to enable clear viewing of the interior joints. During the procedure, the oral surgeon will first allot general anesthesia then create room for the device by making a small cut in the anterior of the ear. The tool is then inserted through the incision, with a video screen attached to it, to enable the dentist to see the inside of the joints and surrounding areas. Based on the results from the arthroscopy, the dentist might recommend hinge or disc realignment or removal of the inflamed tissue.

Undergoing this surgical procedure has many benefits like minimally invasive, leaves little scarring, associated with fewer complications, and has a short recovery duration.

  • Arthrocentesis — This is a minor surgery performed in a dentist’s office on patients with no significant history of TMD syndrome but locked jaws. The surgical procedure involves administering general anesthesia, insertion of needles on the joints, and washing out. Special equipment is used to unstick the joints, remove any damaged tissue, and displace a disc. Once the procedure is complete, it will take up to a week to heal.
  • Open joint surgery — If your joint bones are scarred or chipped, have tumors in and around the joints, or the jaw joint bony structure is wearing out, open surgery might be your last resort because arthroscopy cannot resolve this issue.

Before the procedure, the dental specialist will administer general anesthesia to open up the area around the temporomandibular joint to acquire clear view access. Once the problem has been addressed, it will take longer to heal because the procedure is highly invasive. Furthermore, there is a high probability of nerve injuries or scarring.

When TMD goes for a long time untreated, it can turn into a dental emergency, considering the excruciating pain it can cause. Therefore, maintain frequent visits to the dentists and be sure to talk about some of the problems you are experiencing, like eating disorders, depression, and jaw or neck pain because they could be signs of TMD.

Where Can You Obtain TMD Treatment?

Primary caregivers like your child’s pediatrician, family doctor, or internist can diagnose the disease. When they do, they may send you to an oral surgeon or prosthetic dentist for additional treatment. If the pain is tremendous, you may need to visit a pain management professional.

The Likely Course of TMD  

TMD has an accurate prognosis. The outlook of the condition often depends on the cause. Sometimes, the condition has mild symptoms, which might disappear after a few months with minimal inconveniences. With the right home treatments and self-care, you can easily manage the pain and pressure caused by the illness. However, when the condition proves to be long-term with severe symptoms like long-term facial discomfort and headaches, it’s time to seek help from a professional. Long-term remedies might also be advocated if the damage caused by the disorder is extensive.

Factors that Increase the Risk of TMD/TMJ Disorder

Several factors increase the risk of suffering from TMJ disorder. These factors are:

  • Stress that elevates jaw clenching and muscle tension
  • Long-term clenching and grinding of teeth
  • Jaw bone injury
  • Jaw trauma or poorly positioned teeth
  • Individuals with increased stress responses or genetic predisposition to pain
  • Patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Women aged 18 to 44 years have a higher chance of suffering from the disease

How Do You Prevent TMD?

The majority of TMD disorders are caused by lifestyle. It means a change in the way of living, and home remedies can prevent these symptoms. The techniques you can use to prevent the disorder include:

  • Avoid chewing gum to reduce jaw movement
  • Learn relaxation and stress-relieving techniques
  • Putt on dental splints
  • Use appropriate dental tools like mouthguards during sports or at work
  • Keep the right posture
  • Stick to soft foods

Find the Right General Dentist Near Me

If you do not understand TMJ/TMD disorder and have questions of the same or want to schedule an appointment in Carson, CA, we invite you to call 310-217-1507 to speak to one of our dentists at Washington Dental. We will discuss your options and do our best to give you a beautiful and healthy smile. Besides, if you have tried out home remedies unsuccessfully, it is time to contact us for a long-term solution to the condition. We will thoroughly evaluate your situation and draw out a suitable treatment plan.