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TMJ Discomfort Relief

TMJ, or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, is a problem that can feel confusing. If you experience the symptoms of this condition, you may not know where to turn. Do you see your medical doctor for pain in the jaw, head, or neck, or do you see your dentist? The team at the Cosmetic Dentists of Austin have a unique educational background that enables our dentists to accurately diagnose TMJ disorder and treat the underlying problem so function and comfort can be restored.

What is TMJ / TMD?

TMJ and TMD are two acronyms that are often used to describe the same condition. The TMJ is the temporomandibular joint. There is one joint on each side of the jaw, located just in front of the ear. The group of symptoms that occurs when one or both of these joints fail to function properly is referred to as TMD. Symptoms occur when the TMJ becomes inflamed. Inflammation could result from injury to the joint, from stress related to chewing, or from inconsistency across the oral structure (such as a bad bite).

What are the symptoms of TMD?

The most common symptom of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder is popping or clicking sounds when you open and close your mouth. These sounds may or may not be accompanied by pain. Additional symptoms of TMD include general tension in the jaw or face, ringing in the ears, dizziness, neck pain and chronic headaches, including migraines. The nature of symptoms presents a challenge to the objective or reaching an accurate diagnosis. Our team uses specific instruments and protocols to observe the structure of the jaw and how it may be a trigger for uncomfortable symptoms.

What causes TMD?

Research suggests a few potential causes of TMD, though this condition is not completely understood at this point. There is a possibility that multiple factors contribute to dysfunction and tightness in the muscular structure that supports the temporomandibular joints. These include:

  • Excessive gum chewing.
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding).
  • Stress and anxiety (which could cause bruxism).
  • Trauma to the jaw.
  • Malocclusion, or a bad bite.
  • Poor posture.
  • Existing musculoskeletal disorder or arthritis.

Can I treat TMD on my own?

There are instances of TMD that may be related to excessive stress on the jaw, such as bruxism. Minor and temporary symptoms of this condition may be relieved with lifestyle modifications such as:

  • Applying ice to the cheek for a few minutes.
  • Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.
  • Developing strategies to manage stress.
  • Eating soft foods for a short period of time.
  • Avoid chewing gum until symptoms improved.
  • Gentle massage to the jaw and neck muscles.

It is important to obtain professional care for symptoms of TMD if improvement is not achieved with lifestyle habits alone or if symptoms have occurred for more than a few weeks.

How is TMD diagnosed?

The diagnostic process for TMD must go beyond the basic dental or physical examination. It is, therefore, best conducted by a dentist who has completed training in the area of neuromuscular dentistry. Drs. Schiro and Hay have both attended courses at the esteemed Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. Their extensive training accommodates accurate diagnosis of muscular and joint conditions.

Step One: Consultation

Initial consultation for TMD diagnosis involves an in-depth conversation with your dentist. This dialogue provides us with valuable information that helps us tie symptoms into a potential cause. Questions that may be asked during your consultation include:
  • Have you sustained an injury to the jaw or face?
  • Where does pain occur and what is the intensity of pain?
  • When does pain occur (triggers)?
  • Do symptoms affect one or both sides of the face?

Step Two: Examination

A neuromuscular dental examination is performed to help us understand the physical state of the jaw and the temporomandibular joints. We may listen as you open and close your mouth and may gently palpate the joints as you do this.

The range of motion of your jaw will be observed, and the muscles around the TMJs will be felt.

Step Three: Diagnostic Tests

Physical examination alone is not sufficient to fully understand the nature of TMD in each case. We rely on data gathered by diagnostic imaging such as x-rays and, if necessary, ultrasound or other imaging types. Tests that we perform in our office include:
  • K7 electromyography. Electromyography, or EMG, monitors the electrical impulses of the muscles in the jaw. This test helps us recognize if jaw pain is stemming from the muscles themselves or from a structural irregularity.
  • TENS therapy is used diagnostically to observe the jaw’s natural resting position.

How is TMD treated?

TMD treatment may include:

  • Continued treatment with TENS therapy to facilitate muscle relaxation in the jaw.
  • Temporary use of an oral appliance, similar to a mouthguard, to support the retraining of jaw muscles.
  • Structural changes in the form of porcelain crowns to support a balanced bite.

Neuromuscular dentistry is a valuable resource for patients with TMD. Give us a call to learn more about our diagnostic and treatment protocols.

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