Has your dentist talked to you about a dental onlay? This could be an unfamiliar type of restorative treatment for you, but that does not mean you should shy away from it. There are instances where an onlay is a more effective treatment than a filling or crown. In fact, as you learn more about…
How Does A General Dentist Treat TMJ?
Nobody thinks about their temporomandibular joints (TMJ) until they develop a problem. That is when most people discover that they have two sliding hinge joints on either side of their mouth. When the joints quietly go about their duties like a well-oiled machine, the mouth enjoys a full range of motion. When these same joints start to cause pain and limit the mouth’s range of motion, treatment becomes the only viable long-term solution.
This article explores the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders. It also describes the causes and risk factors of TMJD, and how they inform treatment.
What TMJ disorder looks like
TMJD lacks a clear-cut root cause, unlike gum disease or tooth decay. The condition also lacks a tell-tale set of symptoms. This means that one patient’s symptoms may look nothing like the symptoms of a different patient. However, there is a list of symptoms that are common in TMJ cases:
- Jaw pain or soreness
- Sore teeth
- Facial pain
- Ear pain and ringing ears
- Pain that feels a lot like sinusitis
- A grating or clicking sensation when the patient moves the jaw
- Difficulty in opening and/or closing the jaw
A patient may have any number and any combination of symptoms. However, there is an overarching theme in most if not all TMJD cases: discomfort and limited motion in the jaw.
Diagnosis of TMJ disorder: physical exam
The first step toward the diagnosis of TMJD is an account of the patient’s experience. A dentist will ask their patient questions that touch on the person’s experience with jaw problems. The dentist will seek to ‘quantify’ their patient’s level of discomfort. Next, the dentist will go over the patient’s medical history in an effort to find out if there is an underlying reason for the patient’s symptoms.
The dentist will then perform a physical exam to locate the different pain points on the patient’s mouth and face. They will also ask their patient to perform certain movements with their mouth. The goal is to find out how much or how little the patient is able to move their jaw.
Diagnosis of TMJD: medical imaging
Next, the dentist will order one or more of the following tests:
- X-ray to detect injury, misalignment or malformation in the jaw area
- CAT scan to evaluate the health of the soft tissue around the jaw
- The insertion of a fiber optic camera into the temporomandibular joints to check for abnormalities
Depending on their findings, the dentist will proceed to craft a treatment plan that matches the patient’s diagnosis.
Treating TMJ disorder
Although every patient requires a custom treatment plan for TMJD, all treatments fall under these broad categories:
For the TMJD patient who grinds their teeth, the dentist may prescribe a muscle relaxant to keep the jaw muscles from clenching. This tackles the immediate cause of the patient’s TMJ disorder. Sedatives work the same way, except that they relax the entire body; not just the jaw muscles. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories deal with the swelling and inflammation that often accompanies teeth grinding.
Oral splints, prosthodontics and bite guards also treat bruxism-induced TMJD. Like medication, they arrest jaw clenching but do not eliminate it. Other forms of treatment are more effective at dealing with the cause of bruxism.
3. Relaxation and stress management
Many patients that suffer from chronic teeth grinding do so because of stress. Stress management addresses the issues at the root of the patient’s jaw clenching.
4. Orthodontic treatment for a bad bite
A bad bite that goes untreated can stress or strain the jaw, resulting in TMJ. Correcting the misalignment ultimately corrects the TMJ disorder. Sometimes, orthodontic treatment can be the cause of a patient’s TMJ disorder. In such situations, a dentist will recommend adjustments to the patient’s orthodontic appliance.
5. Corrective surgery
A dentist will only recommend this course of action if a patient’s TMJ disorder is a result of unresolved trauma to the mouth. They will also recommend this option if the patient has a deformity or severe misalignment in their jaw.
Start your recovery journey today
It may seem as if TMJD is one of those conditions that is hard to diagnose and treat. However, we have a team of dentists and oral surgeons with years of experience in the treatment of TMJ disorders. Call us today to take advantage of their expertise.
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