Do you frequently feel pain and have difficulty opening and closing your mouth? Maybe it is coupled with unnerving popping, clicking or grinding noises. Does your jawbone ache when you chew? All of these are symptoms associated with TMJ, a disorder of the temporomandibular joint that connects the lower jaw (called the mandible) to the temporal bone on the side of the head. The condition affects the muscles and nerves that allow the jaw to move backward and forward, as well as from side to side. It is estimated that about 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ, which tends to occur in women more often than men.
There are many reasons why TMJ may develop. One of the most common is arthritis in or trauma to the hinge-like joint itself. A misaligned bite, known as malocclusion, may also be to blame. When biting down normally, the teeth should come together and rest evenly allowing the mouth to close comfortably. Instead, high spots on natural teeth or dental restorations can prevent this and negatively impact how the jaw functions.
Bruxism, a condition that involves chronic grinding and clenching of the teeth, can cause inflammation by overworking the jaw muscles, leading to TMJ. It may surprise some patients in New York City to learn that even chewing gum excessively can cause a flare up of TMJ symptoms, the pain from which can be excruciating. Other symptoms may include earaches, dizziness, a ringing sound in the ears known as tinnitus, and headaches.
Although there is no standardized test available to diagnose TMJ, the dentists at SmilesNY Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry, a state-of-the-art dental practice located in the heart of New York City, are specially trained to perform comprehensive examinations on patients they suspect may suffer from the condition. Oral exams typically include an assessment of the jaw movement and close attention is paid to any evidence of clenching, misalignment, grinding, tenderness, or inflammation. Additional analysis of the patient’s bite, as well as x-rays, may be necessary to determine how severe the condition is in order to determine customized treatments, which may include one or more of the techniques detailed below.
Disclusion Time Reduction
Also known as DTR, this innovative treatment combines the highly detailed, multi-dimensional images afforded through T-Scan technology with a technique called electromyography (EMG) to measure and analyze aspects of a patient’s bite. If a bite imbalance is detected, or the teeth fail to match up, it may put a strain on the temporomandibular joint. SmilesNY dentists can make adjustments to the teeth themselves by shaving off some of the enamel or adding a filling that matches the patient’s tooth color to create a more symmetrical, balanced bite. Patients report that they often experience pain relief following their first DTR therapy treatment, although additional treatments may be required to achieve optimal results.
Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block and other injections
More commonly referred to as an SPG Block, this injection features a numbing medication that provides relief for head and facial pain, including conditions related to TMJ. The injection is made through the mouth, cheek, or, most commonly, the nose. This procedure typically provides excellent pain relief. Trigger point injections may also help alleviate TMJ-related pain. An anesthetic such as lidocaine is used to numb the area where the pain is experienced. Although the numbness wears off after a few hours, actual pain relief can be experienced by patients in New York City for several weeks or months following the procedure. For some patients, injections of the neurotoxin BOTOX, best known for its use in cosmetic surgery procedures to smooth out stubborn wrinkles, may also improve TMJ discomfort by relaxing the trigger point.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
Because pain related to TMJ typically is caused by nerve pressure and muscle strain, one of the best ways to relieve it is by causing the muscles to relax. This technique, also called TENS, employs electrical pulses that cause the muscles to massage themselves. Heat is generated by the muscle’s own metabolism, which works to lessen pain and stiffness as it improves mobility in the jaw. A positive side effect of TENS is that it prompts the brain to release endorphins, the body’s own pain-relieving chemicals.
Orthotics, orthodontics and other devices
The dentists at SmilesNY in New York City may also suggest that patients wear a custom-designed orthotic appliance, such as a nightguard, that fits over the teeth. This works by slowly adjusting the bite to achieve a more stable position. Similarly, a recommendation can be made for long-term, neuromuscular orthodontic treatments that will help teeth remain properly positioned. Reconstructive devices, such as dental crowns and overlays that offer structural support, may also be used. Surgery is only considered for extreme cases of TMJ.
There are various things that patients can do on their own which may help to alleviate TMJ pain and symptoms. When it comes to diet, adding soft foods that are easy to chew will lessen wear and tear on the jaw. Heat and ice packs applied to the jaw area may ease discomfort, as well as taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil. In some cases, the dentists at SmilesNY may prescribe anti-anxiety medications and muscle relaxants for patients who might benefit from the effects of those.
Another method for relieving TMJ pain involves making simple improvements to your posture. For example, refrain from resting your chin on your hand as this position puts extra pressure on the jawbone. Also, try sitting with your back pressed against a chair back to prevent slouching. It may help to reduce stress levels overall by practicing a combination of relaxation and meditation techniques, including breathing exercises.
Take the bite out of TMJ
If you are in New York City and feel that you may benefit from TMJ treatments, we invite you to contact SmilesNY Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry and schedule an examination. Our highly trained dentists are affiliated with numerous professional boards and organizations and are dedicated to assisting their patients to regain comfort. The more you know about this condition, its symptoms and the treatment options available, the sooner you can begin to improve your quality of life.