What is TMJ?
TMJ in and of itself is not a condition. Instead, it stands for temporomandibular joint. It is the jaw joint that connects the jaw bone to the skull.
Colloquially, dentists and doctors refer to disorders surrounding the joint as either TMJ or TMJ disorders.
They may present in a wide range of ways. Some people experience bruxism or grinding their teeth. This falls under the umbrella of a "TMJ disorder." Many people grind their teeth when they're asleep and are not even aware of their habit.
Some people don't know they grind their teeth until a partner tells them about their nighttime habits.
Other people are aware of their bruxism, but cannot consciously correct it.
TMJ disorders don't necessarily have to include bruxism. But most people who have TMJ disorders experience severe discomfort in their jaw. They may have severe muscle pain, migraines originating in the jaw, problems with the joint clicking out of place or pain upon eating certain foods.
Some people with TMJ problems may also have their mouth stuck open or closed if the jaw comes out of its "hinge." In this case, it requires a trip to the emergency room where they can push the jaw back into place.
How Do Dentists Fix TMJ?: Conservative Treatment
Most people with TMJ will have conservative treatment from their dentist.
This will typically include having the patient rest his or her jaw for as long as possible. This may mean eating softer foods and foods that don't require the patient to open his or her jaw wide.
Other treatments can include having the patient use ice packs or heat packs on his or her jaw. This is typically done on the outside of the face, though some people report that eating ice cream or popsicles can help the pain inside of their mouth.
A dentist or doctor may also prescribe medication to help with any swelling or pain in the area. Usually, patients are given some kind of non-steroid anti-inflammatory that can help bring down some of the pain in the joint and surrounding muscles.
Patients who grind or clench their teeth may be instructed to rest their jaws if possible. Many people who grind their teeth do so during their waking hours, especially in times of stress. A dentist or doctor may encourage a patient to relax his or her jaw muscles as often as possible
and to make sure their teeth don't touch when they are awake.
Patients may also be advised to sleep on their backs and to reduce stress.
Some dentists may also provide bite plates to mitigate the damage that can be caused by bruxism. Some people may grind their teeth so badly that their teeth are cosmetically ruined. In this event, a dentist may refer a patient to a cosmetic dental surgeon who can place caps or veneers over the teeth to restore a more "normal" appearance.
A bite plate will not only ensure that a patient bites down evenly, but also distributes the pressure. When someone grinds their teeth, they may place more pressure on a certain part of their mouth than another. As a result, this can cause even more issues with certain teeth and headaches on one side of the face.
A bite plate can also protect the teeth so that you do not have even more of a breakdown of your tooth or teeth.
Surgery and Other Treatments
Other treatments dentists may try before surgery include trigger point injections, in which medicine is placed inside the sorest part of your muscles.
Treatment may also include an ultrasound or TENS therapy, both of which can help relieve pain.
If the patient does not respond to more conservative treatments, a dentist might request more drastic measures. These measures typically include surgery.
There are several different types of jaw surgeries that can be performed to help alleviate pain. However, most of these surgeries are done either in the hospital or at an oral surgeon's office. Most dentists do not perform these types of surgeries.
Surgeries may include washing out the joint, injecting fluid in the joint, open jaw surgery or correcting the position of the jaw with surgery.
Most people find success with surgery, but every so often, it can lead to more problems. Because of this, anyone who has been told to have surgery by a dentist or oral surgeon should seek more than one opinion.
Can a Dentist Fix My TMJ Issues?
The question of, "how do dentists fix TMJ?" isn't entirely straightforward. Because of many varieties of factors, there isn't one sure-fire way to fix TMJ issues for good.
If you suspect you have problems with your TMJ joint, visit a dentist to have it evaluated. If
you're in need of a good dentist in New York City, make an appointment with us. We can evaluate your TMJ condition and whether you might need further intervention to bring you the relief you deserve.