The temporomandibular joint is a hinge joint located near your ears that allows your lower jaw to move upward, downward, sideward, and backward. When you experience pain and discomfort in this joint or have trouble moving your jaw, this condition is known as temporomandibular disorder.
Causes of Temporomandibular Disorders
The exact causes of temporomandibular disorders are difficult to determine. You may experience discomfort due to arthritis, facial trauma, or genetics. Some people may have jaw pain because they suffer from bruxism or teeth clenching, although a lot of people grind their teeth and never experience TMJ disorders. Certain connective tissue diseases may also cause problems with the joint.
The temporomandibular joints consist of bones that are covered with cartilage and separated with buffering disks that allow for the smooth movement of the jaw. TMJ disorders may be caused if these shock-absorbing disks slip out of alignment, or the joint cartilage becomes damaged due to trauma.
Symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorders
TMJ disorders are characterized by many symptoms, including tenderness and pain in the jaw or the jaw joint, pain around the ear, clicking, popping or grating noise, aching face muscles, and locking of the jaw. People suffering from temporomandibular disorders can experience a single symptom or a combination of these symptoms.
Treatments of Temporomandibular Disorders
In many cases, the symptoms of temporomandibular disorders resolve themselves without treatment. We may initially recommend some lifestyle changes at home, like:
If the discomfort doesn't improve, Dr. Stout may recommend some medication and therapeutic options:
For pain, we may prescribe some pain medications, like ibuprofen. If stress makes you clench your jaw, we may prescribe you some antidepressants, like amitriptyline, and muscle relaxants.
Night Mouthguards and Splints
Mouthguards are worn while you sleep, while you can wear splints all day long. These devices are made of plastic and can fit your upper and lower arch, preventing the opposing teeth from meeting. Mouthguards and oral splints distribute the force of biting or clenching down, preventing stress on the jaw. They also help to keep your teeth properly aligned.
When these methods are not effective enough in resolving temporomandibular disorders, we may recommend surgery as a last resort.
If you are experiencing TMJ disorders, make sure you discuss all the potential options and the risks and benefits of each. To make an appointment, call us at (805) 317-4999 today.