If you are experiencing pain and tenderness in your jaw when you chew, speak, or yawn, yourmight be experiencing TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder). The TMJ is a small joint located just in front of the ear, where the lower jaw bone meets the skull. This joint moves during chewing, speaking, and other similar activities.

A healthy temporomandibular joint moves fluidly and without paint. However in 15% of the American population, this joint suffers damage. The result is pain that can extend from the jaw into the ear or down into the neck and shoulders. The joint may click or pop as the mouth opens and closes. In severe cases, the jaw may become frozen in a certain position, making it difficult for those affected to drink, eat, or speak.

Treatment for TMJD

At Virginia Beach Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we offer treatment for TMJ related disorders, often referred to as TMD. Because disorders of this joint are so common, we evaluate each patient for signs of disorder. Dr. Lewis takes time at each six month appointment to assess clicking in the jaw, misalignment of the teeth, and other causes of TMJ.

While arthritis, jaw misalignment and other injury to the jaw can result in TMD, one of the most prevalent causes of the disorder in our culture is stress. When people are stressed, they tend to grind their teeth; the resulting forces on the joints can cause TMJD to develop. Often, teeth grinding is a symptom of psychological stress or unease. However, stress placed on the temporomandibular joint might also occur due to the physical stress of lifting heavy objects or other intense physical exertion. During your appointment, Dr. Lewis will assess your symptoms to understand the cause of the TMD.

What types of treatment are there?

The best form of treatment for TMJ disorders is to address the underlying causes. In cases where stress is a factor, patients will be encouraged to engage in relaxation exercises designed to take pressure off the joints. In the case of night teeth grinding, Dr. Lewis may prescribe a mouthguard to help cushion the teeth. Most patients benefit from the use of over the counter anti-inflammatories to reduces pain and associated swelling. Massage of the neck and jaw can help provide comfort and release as well; you may be referred to a massage therapist with special training, or you may wish to perform these massage exercises yourself in the privacy of your own home.

Behavioral corrections may also help alleviate pain as well as prevent TMJD and other neuromuscular conditions of the jaw and face. Patients should avoid chewing gum and hard candies, should take smaller bites when eating, and should try to distribute chewing function between both sides of the mouth. Corrections to the posture and changes in general nutrition may also help relieve pain and promote overall wellness. Certain habits, such as leaning the face on the hand, can put stress on the TMJ and lead to TMJD.

If the TMD is caused by misaligned teeth, we may recommend an appliance that can correct your bite. Proper bite alignment helps take pressure off the joints and often improves the condition permanently. In some cases, oral surgeons perform surgery to realign the jaw. Unfortunately, this surgery doesn’t always work, and can even make things worse in some cases; we encourage you to use caution and ask lots of questions before you commit to any surgery.

What are the benefits of TMJD treatment?

TMJD can cause pain in the affected joints. Sometimes, the pain radiates to adjacent areas, including the neck, face, and ear. TMJD can be a cause of chronic headaches that are difficult to treat without addressing the TMJ. TMJD treatment can relieve the pain, allowing patients to feel comfortable again.

Additionally, patients with TMJD may experience difficulty in moving the joint. It may feel stiff, making speaking and chewing more difficult. In severe cases, the joint may even “lock” at times, freezing the person’s mouth in a particular position. This creates interference with life. Treating the TMJD allows the patient to function normally again.

Dentist in Virginia Beach

The objective of all TMJ treatment in Virginia Beach provided by Dr. Mary Lewis at our office is to provide pain relief to the affected joints as non-invasively as possible. Patients with TMJD, and other related disorders may receive great benefit from small revisions to daily routine and care. Through examination and x-ray, your dentist in Virginia Beach will help you determine what course of treatment is best for you. If you are suffering from jaw pain and are in the Richmond or Virginia Beach areas, call our office today to set-up an appointment!