Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders impact the complex joints that allow your jaw to work on either side of your face. These disorders can cause mild symptoms such as jaw clicking or grinding noises to constant discomfort and inability to open your mouth all the way. It’s estimated that over 10 million Americans suffer from some type of TMJ disorder .
Your dentist is an integral part of treating jaw and bite disorders, but how does a dentist treat TMJ? Treatment for TMJ has shifted over the years to include more conservative approaches to managing the disorder. Here’s how your dentist may treat your TMJ.
Start by Identifying Potential Underlying Causes
Your dentist will typically begin by identifying any potential underlying causes for your TMJ discomfort. TMJ pain can often be caused by stress, teeth grinding (bruxism), and even arthritis in the joints. One study found that 78% of people with TMJ had bruxism .
There are even lifestyle factors that can contribute to TMJ discomfort, such as chewing gum too much, having poor posture, and a misaligned bite. By conducting an exam of your jaw and asking a few questions, your dentist may be able to determine what the best method for your treatment would be.
Move Forward With Conservative Treatment
If your dentist finds any potential underlying causes of your TMJ symptoms, they’ll typically try to resolve those before moving forward with other treatment options. However, if there aren’t any triggers present that could be causing your TMJ, your dentist will likely suggest moving forward with conservative treatment.
These treatments could include :
- Jaw exercises. Your dentist may suggest specific jaw exercises to help alleviate tension and discomfort in your jaw and temporomandibular joints.
- Relaxation techniques. If stress is suspected to be the cause of your TMJ, you may
consider identifying triggers to help you reduce stress and improve wellbeing.
- Lifestyle changes. From eating softer foods to avoiding gum, you may be able to treat
your TMJ using lifestyle changes suggested by your dentist.
If none of these treatments help, your dentist may move forward with recommending additional diagnostics.
Consider Additional Diagnostics
To determine if there’s something else going on with your temporomandibular joints, your dentist may take x-rays or refer you to get a CT scan or MRI. These scans can help identify if there’s an issue with your joints such as arthritis, potentially a tumor, or another issue that’s causing your discomfort.
Based on their findings, your dentist may recommend an oral splint to wear—called an occlusal appliance, which helps reposition the jaw to relieve discomfort—physical therapy, or even corticosteroid injections or surgery . It all depends on what could be causing your TMJ and the treatment that your dentist feels will be the least invasive with the most benefits.
Do You Suffer From TMJ Pain?
If you suffer from TMJ discomfort, there are treatment options available, many of which are non-invasive and include a few simple lifestyle changes. Follow up with your dentist today to discuss your TMJ treatment options!