Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ Disorder)

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TMJ Treatment

Are you suffering from chronic jaw pain, clicking or discomfort? These may be symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

TMJ disorder is a chronic condition affecting the temporomandibular joint, jaw muscles and nerves. The chronic nature of the condition and symptoms most often yields diagnosis of TMJ disorder because sufferers are forced into seeking medical assistance. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, TMJ treatment options may be discussed.

The temporomandibular joint – cited by the ADA as one of the most complex joints in the body – is integral in jaw movement and functionality. There are a variety of muscles, ligaments and bones at play in temporomandibular joint functionality. Essentially a disc fitted between a ball and a socket, the temporomandibular joint cushions against the force associated with jaw use. When this functionality is disturbed, TMJ disorder is a likely outcome.

Common Symptoms of TMJ

The most common TMJ symptom eliciting medical assistance is jaw pain. This jaw pain is often more pronounced early and late in the day. Although other symptoms may occur prior to the onset of pain, they are typically less intense and/or noticeable than the TMJ pain – often described as a chronic dull aching of the temporomandibular joint. Although TMJ pain affects the joint itself, it may radiate to other areas such as the ears, neck and shoulders.

Although pain is the most common TMJ symptom, it is not always experienced. Some of the other common TMJ symptoms include:

  • Jaw popping or clicking (when opening/closing your mouth)
  • Facial swelling
  • Bite changes/irregularities (malocclusion)
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Headaches (tension headaches or early morning headaches)
  • Earache

If you experience one or more the aforementioned symptoms over an extended period of time, you should seek medical assistance to determine whether you may be suffering from TMJ disorder.

Diagnosing TMJ Disorder

In most cases, your dentist can diagnose and treat TMJ disorder. Diagnosing TMD prior to treatment is essential, even though currently there is no universal standard test to identify all TMD conditions.

The diagnosis of TMJ disorder begins with a comprehensive oral health examination consisting of an assessment of joint and muscle tenderness, clicking and popping, and ease of movement. Your dentist also may perform a “clench test” in order to understand the nature of your pain. X-rays and impressions of your upper and lower teeth also are taken so that cast models can be made to study the jaw-to-bite relationship and the position/condition of your temporomandibular joint.

Your dentist can measure forces on the teeth, proper balance of the bite and timing of the bite using a specialized computer bite analysis test (T-scan). This test can help to determine if a structural disorder exists within the joint itself, or if interferences in the bite are affecting the joint’s ability to close properly.

TMJ Treatments

There are a wide variety of TMJ treatments available to help manage the pain and discomfort associated with the chronic condition. Obtaining a TMJ diagnosis with your dentist or medical practitioner is the first step towards developing a TMJ treatment plan designed to restore normal jaw functionality.

Jaw-to-bite relationship is fully evaluated to determine the extent of your TMJ problem, after which a treatment plan can be created. Regardless of your specific temporomandibular issue, a conservative approach to treatment will be advised. Many TMJ treatments are simple in nature and can be performed at home. TMJ surgery is an extreme option that should only be considered once all other options have been evaluated in full. It also should be noted that there is no known preventable measure against TMJ. Keep it in mind when encountering any product or treatment suggesting its preventive benefits.

  • Traditional TMJ Treatments: Traditional TMJ treatments revolve around bite correction. This can be performed through basic orthodontics (dental braces, retainers), tooth restorations (bridges, veneers, implants, and dentures), occlusal equilibration, or appliance therapy. Regardless of you specific treatment modality, it is important to maintain regular dental visits so that progress and overall oral health can be fully evaluated.
  • Alternative TMJ Treatments: Beyond the traditional treatments used to combat TMJ disorder, there are some alternative treatment options available for consideration. Alternative TMJ treatment modalities may include things like transcutaneous electrical stimulation, ultrasound, trigger-point injections, radio wave therapy and even Botox injections. Botox TMJ treatment is particularly interesting because it is routinely associated with cosmetics. Botox is injected into the jaw muscle, essentially blocking nerve signals associated with pain, discomfort and other TMJ symptoms.

What’s the Cost of TMJ Treatment?

TMJ treatment costs are difficult to approximate because of the many factors at play. For example, the cost of temporomandibular joint disorder can be impacted based on the type of medical professional providing treatment (dentist, primary care physician, chiropractor, etc.), and the number of professionals involved. IE, if your dentist is the primary treatment provider, but a chiropractor and ear nose and throat specialist are consulted, treatment will cost more than if the dentist performed treatment alone.

The cost of treating TMJ disorder also can be affected based on whether or not you have dental insurance coverage, or whether an occlusal appliance is prescribed. An occlusal device could cost between $425 and $625 as part of treatment. Similarly, if Botox is involved as part of your treatment plan, your costs will be greater; but even Botox costs will vary. If braces are recommended as part of your TMJ treatment, the cost could be significant. Again, it depends on how much dental braces cost for your specific condition. Speak with your dentist to determine the most appropriate treatment considerations for your circumstances.

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