TMJ Treatment

By: Northwest Arkansas Family Dental   04/01/2015

TMJ is a unique disorder that is not taught much in dental school. Dr. Kifer and Dr. Bowen have spent lots of time researching and studying exactly what is TMJ and developing a way to help our patients. What Is TMJ? TMJ is shorthand for “temporomandibular joint.” This is the joint where your jaw connects to the rest of your skull, and it’s located just below your ear. In fact, if you place your fingers right in front of your ear and open and close your mouth (or wiggle your jaw from side to side), you’ll be able to feel the movement in the joint. The TMJ is a remarkable part of your anatomy. It’s a highly flexible joint, and it’s one of the main reasons why humans can eat such a diverse selection of foods. What Causes TMJ Problems? Unfortunately, the TMJ can also develop a number of problems that can cause pain and other issues in the joint. TMJ problems (also referred to as TMD, or temporomandibular disorders) can happen to you at any age. There can be many different causes for TMD. Some of the causes of TMD include trauma to the joint, differences in your bite, or even genetics. What Are the Symptoms of TMD? Pain is the main symptom that brings people to our office. The pain can either be dull or throbbing and limited to the joint, or it may be a shooting pain that radiates into your shoulder and down your arm or up into your ear. Other symptoms of TMD include: A grinding sensation in the joint Popping or clicking sounds in the joint The joint locking or becoming stuck Tinnitus and other ear problems Chronic headaches Fatigue in the muscles of the face Difficulty opening your mouth wide Swelling around the joint Difficulty chewing A sensation that your bite is off-balance How Is TMD Diagnosed? When you present to our Fayetteville dental clinic with TMJ pain, we will do a thorough history and examination to try and figure out the cause of your pain. Sometimes, we will order more images, which may include a CT or an MRI. TMJ doesn’t have to be a problem with your actual joint. Sometimes it is the muscles or teeth that are causing the problem. Proper treatment of TMJ starts with a correct diagnosis. Saying you have TMJ would be the same as saying you have a bad back. It is a very vague diagnosis and we don’t know how to treat until we figure out what is causing your problem. Treating TMD After we determine the cause of your problems, we will come up with a plan to help treat your problem. Different treatments may include a customized nightguard, a bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics (braces), or even medication. Patients who have been dealing with TMJ pain know that it can be a very big problem. It can affect your entire life and even lead to depression. This is a very real problem and we want to be able to help you!! Sometimes, just knowing that you have someone who cares and will sit down and listen goes a long way. We will work hard and listen carefully so that we can figure out the best plan for you. One of the most rewarding things we get to do is take a patient who is in pain and help relieve that pain. We have seen patients’ personalities change when they are no longer hurting all the time. Call our office to schedule your appointment with Fayetteville dentist Dr. Wade Kifer or Dr. Beth Bowen so that we can provide a thorough examination and create a customized treatment plan to relieve your discomfort and improve your TMJ function.

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