TMJ (temporomandibular joints) are the joints connecting the jawbone to the skull. You need these joints to talk, laugh, eat, and make other important movements with your mouth. Because of the constant pressure, they are exposed to every day, these joints are prone to various complications such as jaw injuries, inflammations, and overuse. These problems cause a wide range of mild symptoms like pain when chewing, painful ears, face, jaws, neck, clicking, and grating sound when opening and closing your mouth; locked jaw joints; and headaches.
To diagnose your problem, the dentist will take a look at you and discuss the symptoms and inspect your jaw. The diagnosis process includes listening to and feeling your jaw joints when you open and close your mouth, observing how far your jaw can go when you open your mouth, and pressing on parts of your jaw to locate the areas of discomfort. If the physical diagnosis is not conclusive, the doctor will perform dental x-rays, CT scans, and MRI to diagnose the problem. These scans will help examine your jawbone and teeth and provide comprehensive images of your TMJ and other bones connected to the jaw.
In some cases, the doctor can use TMJ arthroscopy to diagnose the problem. This diagnosis procedure involves the insertion of a tiny tube called a cannula into the space created by the joint and a minute camera referred to as arthroscopy to examine the affected area and determine if the cause of the problem is TMJ disorder. Once the doctor has made a positive diagnosis, he or she will recommend the right treatment. There are various treatment options that the doctor can suggest for you. For instance, you may be given several prescriptions, including painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines. These are over-the-counter drugs that are strong enough to relieve the pain in your jaw. Other medications include muscle relaxants that are generally taken for several days or a few weeks to deal with the pain resulting from TMJ disorders and muscle spasm.
Along with medication, your doctor will recommend several therapies that help to relieve TMJ pain. These therapies include oral splints, physical exercises, and education. Counseling is essential because it allows the patient to understand the causes of various TMJ disorders and what can be done to avoid them. If the different medicines and therapies don’t work, your doctor will recommend surgery. These procedures include arthrocentesis, injections, TMJ arthroscopy, modified condylotomy, and open-joint surgery.
Finally, if your dentist recommends surgery, make sure you talk about each procedure’s possible risks and benefits. Talk to us today if you suspect your TMJ has a problem.