Do you have ongoing pain in your jaw, facial muscles or the area near your ear? Is the pain accompanied by a clicking or popping sound or difficulty opening and closing your jaw? If so, you may be suffering from a temporomandibular disorder (TMD). While people sometimes mistakenly refer to the problem as TMJ, TMJ is actually the abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint, which is the jaw joint itself.
TMD describes the group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the TMJ and the muscles around it. If you’re experiencing TMJ pain, we can help. Our Fryeburg dentists are experts at diagnosing TMD and creating a treatment plan to alleviate your pain. Schedule a visit with us today by requesting an appointment online or calling us at (207) 935-3133.
The Basics of TMJ/TMD
The TMJ is an extremely complex joint that allows the jaw to move in multiple directions. You have two TMJs, one on either side of your face, that connect your lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull. The lower jaw and temporal bone come together as a ball and socket with a disk in between that acts as a cushion. You also have large pairs of muscles in the temples and cheeks that move the lower jaw. The disk, the mucles or the TMJ can be the source of a TMD. A thorough exam is necessary to pinpoint the source of the problem before deciding on the ideal treatment plan.
As for the causes of TMD, they could be orthopedic in nature, such as inflammation, sore muscles, disk problems, or strained tendons and ligaments. TMD can also be related to physical and psychological stress, particularly if it causes habits like clenching or grinding the teeth. In some cases, TMJ pain is tied to a widespread chronic pain condition, such as fibromyalgia. Risk factors for TMD include genetics, sex (women are more prone to it), and age.
Signs and Symptoms of TMD
- Pain in and around the ear
- Tenderness and pain in the jaw
- Popping or clicking noises when you open the jaw (popping and clicking alone are not a concern but in conjunction with pain, they can indicate TMD)
- Headaches or neck aches
- Difficulty opening and closing the jaw all of the way (the jaw may get “stuck”)
- Tenderness in the cheeks and temples
Benefits of TMJ/TMD Treatment
Alleviates Acute Pain
With tailored treatment, we can eliminate your TMJ pain.
Treatment will allow you to move your jaw more freely so that it functions properly.
We’ll develop a plan with you for managing TMD long-term.
What to Expect
Dr. Harper, Dr. Hennessy or Dr. Nutter will perform a thorough exam, which may include x-rays and other diagnostics. Once they identify the underlying cause of your TMJ pain, they’ll develop a strategy for treating and managing your TMD. We always treat conservatively and try a range of reversible treatments before considering anything permanent or invasive.
Treatment options may include:
- Homecare (i.e., temporarily changing to a soft food diet, applying ice and/or moist heat, and doing gentle stretching exercises)
- Medication, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants
- A custom nightguard if TMJ pain is due to clenching and grinding teeth; The device decreases the force exerted on the teeth and your jaw joint and allows the muscles to relax
In severe cases of TMD, if conservative options don’t work, Dr. Harper, Dr. Hennessy and Dr. Nutter may recommend more complex treatments, such as:
- Minor procedures inside of the joint like cortisone injections or lavage (flushing of the joint)
- Orthodontics to correct a bite imbalance
- Dental restorations like bridgework
- In extremely rare cases, TMJ surgery