TMJ Disorder Treatment

Joint conditions can have a tremendously negative impact on a person’s quality of life, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is no different. This condition affects an estimated 10 million Americans, resulting in more than 15 percent of people suffering every day. The condition is degenerative and may initially produce no discomfort, but will become increasingly painful and debilitating as the condition worsens. It’s often not until the condition significantly impacts daily life that patients seek TMJ disorder treatment at our La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe offices. However, Dr. Weston Spencer advises his San Diego patients to address concerns with TMJ disorder before they become a larger problem.

Understanding TMJ Disorder

Temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly referred to as TMJ syndrome or TMD, is a condition in which the muscles and nerves surrounding the joint connecting the jawbone to the skull are injured. The condition leads to pain associated with repetitive motions such as speaking or chewing. The condition causes a clicking or popping noise at the jaw and swelling caused by nerve inflammation, leading to headaches and tooth grinding, which can sometimes dislocate the joint.

Causes and Risks

The causes of TMJ syndrome are still not completely understood, although it has been discovered that multiple factors can contribute to the condition. Common traits associated with the condition include teeth grinding or excessive gum chewing, misalignment of the teeth, anxiety or stress, and poor posture. Research is continuing to determine if these traits cause the condition or if they are a result of the disorder.

Patients who suffer from other chronic inflammatory musculoskeletal disorders, such as arthritis, are at higher risk for the condition. Women, particularly those between ages 18 to 44 are more likely to suffer from TMJ syndrome. Some studies have found links in individuals with TMJ syndrome who are genetically predisposed to pain sensitivity or an increased stress response, putting these individuals at risk. Jaw trauma or unchecked malocclusion can result in temporomandibular joint disorder.

TMJ disorder can increase the risk of other oral health conditions, including dental caries due to teeth grinding and periodontal disease.

Signs and Symptoms

Individuals suffering from TMJ disorder often experience a popping or clicking in their jaw, particularly after repetitive motions. This effect can even be experienced within the ear in the form of ringing (tinnitus) or popping sounds or sometimes a sense of fullness in the ear. The neck and jaw often tighten causing soreness within the jaw, neck, ear, and shoulders. Sometimes it is accompanied by facial pain or numbness within the cheeks or chin. The tightening can sometimes cause the jaw to dislocate or lock, especially after yawning, a condition commonly referred to as lockjaw.

Diagnosis and Treatment

During the routine exam, Dr. Weston Spencer will examine the mouth, jaw, and surrounding areas for symptoms. The physical exam will be used in conjunction with the patient’s medical history to assess risk. If necessary, Dr. Spencer may refer the patient to an otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) or a dentist specializing in jaw disorders. Although there is no specific test for TMJ syndrome, an MRI can be used to assess damage to the cartilage and to rule out other concerns.

If diagnosed with TMD, Dr. Spencer may recommend over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs in combination with gentle massage and stretching or relaxation techniques. Patients should avoid gum and difficult to chew foods. If needed, Dr. Spencer may also recommend a mouth guard to prevent tooth grinding.

Learn More about TMJ Disorder

Don’t suffer through the pain of TMJ disorder longer than necessary. Dr. Weston Spencer is happy to provide conservative, highly effective TMJ disorder treatment to San Diego patients at his La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe offices. If you are experiencing the symptoms of TMJ disorder, we encourage you to schedule your initial consultation with Dr. Spencer by contacting our cosmetic, restorative, and general dentistry practice today.