TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are related to your jaw joint, that connects your jaw to your skull. If you have had symptoms like pain, locking or a “clicking” sound, you’ll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. These symptoms occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles do not work together correctly. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important.

TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking or grating noise when you open your mouth, or trouble opening your mouth wide.

There are various forms of TMJ treatment in Irvine, California, that can be used to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms your diagnosis, Dr. Straw or Dr. Jones will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care combined with professional care. Treatment takes time to become effective, but we can help you have healthier, more comfortable jaw joint function.

The initial goal is to relieve muscle spasms and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory medication or muscle relaxant. Steroids can be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:

  • Resting your jaw
  • Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
  • Eating soft foods
  • Applying ice and heat
  • Exercising your jaw
  • Practicing good posture

Stress management techniques such as physical therapy may be recommended, as well as an appliance. A splint or night guard fits over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep your teeth apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A nightguard helps you stop clenching or grinding your teeth and reduces muscle tension at night. It also helps protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relieves pressure on parts of your jaw and aids in disk repositioning. Appliances may be worn 24 hours a day or just at night to move your jaw into proper position. Appliances also help protect tooth wear.

If your TMJ disorder has affected how your teeth fit together, you may need further treatment, such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics, jaw reconstruction or restorative dental work. Surgical options, such as arthroscopy and open joint repair, are reserved for severe cases. Dr. Straw and Dr. Jones do not consider TMJ surgery unless the jaw is dislocated and non-reducible or has severe degeneration or if the patient has undergone appliance treatment unsuccessfully.

For more information about TMJ treatment at Orange County Oral Surgeons & Dental Implant Center or to make an appointment with Dr. Jason Straw or Dr. Jennifer Jones, please call us at 949-727-7000! We look forward to your visit with our oral surgeons.