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Is TMJ Pain Affecting You? How the Right Therapy Can Help

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If you suffer from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, it can be frustrating. One of the most obvious signs of TMJ is popping sounds when opening and closing the mouth, but there are other symptoms as well. Maybe you have jaw, ear, or neck pain or headaches that seemingly pop up out of nowhere. You may have difficulty chewing or opening your mouth wide due to tenderness and pain. Not only is TMJ painful, it can become almost debilitating. 

The temporomandibular joint is a joint in the jawbone that connects to the skull to allow people to open and close their mouths. When this joint begins to cause problems or pain, it is called a temporomandibular disorder, or TMD. Many New York City men and women experiencing TMJ/TMD seek advice and treatment options from the dentists at SmilesNY Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry. Read below as we explain TMJ and how SmilesNY diagnoses and treats this common condition.

TMJ explained

The temporomandibular joint is essentially a hinge that connects the tendons and bones that attach to the skull to allow the jaw to move up, down, and side to side. The joint connects the upper jawbone to the lower, giving individuals the ability to talk, eat, and yawn. When this critical joint is injured or damaged, it can cause severe pain and discomfort called temporomandibular disorder (TMD), more commonly known as TMJ, which is named after the joint.  

A quick self-assessment for TMJ

Before visiting our New York City office, this quick test can help you self-diagnose and provide relevant information to share with one of our dentists.

  • Place one finger on the jaw joint in front of your ear, the bottom edge of the cheekbone
  • Open the jaw slightly
  • Open your mouth wide while you feel the joint move

Do you hear a grating, clicking, or snapping noise? Or do you notice tenderness when touching the area? If so, you could have TMJ.

Common symptoms 

The symptoms of TMJ can vary from person to person. If you are experiencing any of the following, you may have TMJ:

  • Facial pain or headaches 
  • Pain in or around the ears
  • Toothaches
  • Problems or headaches that mainly start near the ear and move up
  • Dizziness, hearing problems, or ringing in the ears (tinnitus) 
  • Swelling or inflammation on the side of your face
  • Difficulty or discomfort when chewing
  • A locked jaw that makes it difficult to open and close the mouth
  • Grating or clicking when opening or closing the mouth

The diagnosis

The experienced dentists at SmilesNY can diagnose TMJ and begin a treatment plan to provide some welcome relief. The first step is an oral assessment to detail the movements in your jaw, looking for teeth grinding, misalignment of the jawbone, or signs of jaw clenching. Our dentists will also note the jaw area and its joint to determine if there is any inflammation or tenderness. For patients with suspected severe cases, x-rays or analysis of the bite may be needed. Dental appliances like a nightguard or other treatments might be necessary to provide a bumper. 

Treatments that work: DTR

There is help for TMJ, and a method that is exceptionally effective is called Disclusion Time Reduction (DTR). This computer-assisted technology identifies disturbances in both the upper and lower teeth by evaluating the muscle action that controls jaw movement. T-Scan and EMG technology allow our dentists to measure several aspects of a person's bite. When a patient’s jaw is unbalanced or teeth do not align, this causes a strain on the temporomandibular joint. Our dentists can adjust the teeth either by shaving off part of the enamel or adding a tooth-colored filling, creating a more symmetrical and aligned bite. SmilesNY is one of the only dental practices in New York to provide DTR therapy to help identify occlusal contacts that could be causing TMJ symptoms. Patients typically experience noticeable results after the first treatment, but subsequent sessions may be needed to optimize the results of DTR therapy. 

Other treatments

Aside from therapy and bite alterations, SmilesNY may recommend other therapeutic options to help patients in New York City, NY. For some patients, we may suggest replacing damaged or uneven dental restorations or even orthodontics to correct a misaligned bite. More severe cases of TMJ may be better treated with a surgical approach. 

Relief from TMJ

Once TMJ has been diagnosed, there are some home remedies or other ways for patients to get relief. Some of these easy-to-follow options include:

  • Eating soft foods to reduce stress on your jaw
  • Taking an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Avoiding resting your chin on your hand
  • Avoiding unnecessary jaw movements like gum chewing
  • Trying to keep your jaw and teeth apart
  • Using heat and cold packs on your jaw 
  • Trying to relax with different stress management techniques

If you suffer from the painful symptoms of TMJ, you’re not alone. TMJ is a common condition but is not to be taken lightly as the symptoms can affect your quality of life. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, we recommend seeking professional advice from one of our dentists at SmilesNY Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry so a treatment plan can commence. Call to schedule an appointment at SmilesNY in New York City today.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.