You may have heard about TMJ, but what does it really mean, and how does it relate to orofacial pain? “TMJ” stands for the temporomandibular joint, or the jaw joint. This is the band of tissue that runs from your temple to your chin on either side of your face. Your TMJ allows you to move your mouth, making it essential for your dental, oral, and general wellbeing. If the TMJ becomes stretched, torn, misaligned, overused, or otherwise damaged, it can cause you to suffer from a temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Orofacial pain, which refers to any discomfort occurring in the mouth, jaw, or face, is a common symptom of TMD. This condition itself has a wide range of potential causes. TMJ disorders could arise from an injury, develop due to bruxism (teeth grinding), or come from a degenerative joint disease like arthritis, among other things.
At MedCenter TMJ, our team of dedicated doctors and caring staff are here to help identify and treat TMD and other temporomandibular discomfort at our Houston practice. Read on to learn more about this condition and how we can assist you with it.
Who Suffers From Temporomandibular Joint Pain?
The short answer is that TMJ disorders can affect virtually anyone. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, “the prevalence of temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder is between 5% and 12%.” This means that about one in ten people is likely to experience TMD. Furthermore, the institute explains: “TMJ disorders are higher among younger persons. TMJ disorders are at least twice as prevalent in women as men.” Taking this into account, young women appear to be most at risk for temporomandibular joint pain, but, of course, anyone can experience this condition.
TMJ Symptoms and Treatment Options
Knowing TMJ disorder symptoms can help you spot this condition and seek assistance with it before it becomes worse. As with most oral health issues, ignoring signs of TMD often exacerbates your symptoms.
TMD can cause:
- Discomfort in your temple region or jaw
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Difficulty opening your mouth, speaking, eating, or doing any activity that involves moving your jaw
- Back and shoulder pain
- Limited mobility in your neck and/or neck pain
- A clicking, popping, or scraping sound when you move your jaw
- Ear pain and a ringing in your ears (To some patients, it may seem odd that you would have TMJ disorder symptoms in your ear, but since your facial joints and muscles are interconnected, this can occur.)
We recommend contacting our office and scheduling an appointment if you experience any of the above. The sooner we catch your condition, the more effectively we can alleviate your discomfort.
Let’s say you do have a TMJ disorder – now what? At our Houston practice, we focus on TMJ pain relief and function, helping you manage your condition to be as comfortable as possible while going about your daily life. We can teach you how to massage your TMJ to lessen discomfort, give you exercises with pictures to do at home, provide dietary recommendations, create a customized orthotic appliance for your mouth, and more. While it is an option, our doctors consider TMJ surgery to repair the joint only in the most severe cases (less than one percent, in our experience).
Frequently Asked Questions
At MedCenter TMJ, our Houston team is available to answer any and all of your questions about this condition and its treatment. Below, we’ve responded to some of the most common queries for your convenience.
What is the difference between TMD and TMJ?
Technically speaking, “TMJ” refers to the temporomandibular joint itself, while “TMD” is an acronym for a temporomandibular joint disorder.
Is lockjaw related to TMD?
“Lockjaw” is a serious tetanus infection that can cause your oral muscles to contract, figuratively “locking” your jaw. While a TMD can also cause stiffness, tightness, and pain in your jaw joint, it does not result from an infection. If you feel your jaw has become “locked” and moving it is difficult, we can help you determine if this is due to a TMJ disorder or a tetanus infection.
Can grinding my teeth (bruxism) lead to a TMJ disorder?
Yes. Bruxism is one of the primary causes of TMD. When you clench your teeth together (while sleeping, during stressful times, due to orthodontic issues, etc.), you put undue pressure on your TMJ, which can damage it and cause a temporomandibular disorder.
Can a chiropractor or physical therapist help with TMJ pain?
Potentially. However, we would recommend seeing one of our MedCenter TMJ doctors who study and specifically treat TMD related issues. Meeting with our team can help provide a detailed diagnosis and customized treatment plan before pursuing other options, as it may not be appropriate for your specific case.
Do night guards help with TMD?
This is a tricky subject. We covered bite guards in a previous blog, but while most night guards will help stop bruxism, many mouth guards may actually prompt you to bite down harder at night, instead of relax your jaw. When properly fit and made however, many mouth pieces can be extremely beneficial to those with orofacial pain.
In fact, at MedCenter we custom-make orthotic appliances for our patients. These devices help hold your jaw in a more ideal posture, alleviating pressure from your TMJ.
Can wisdom teeth cause TMJ pain?
It isn’t very common, but in rare cases, your wisdom teeth can cause TMD. These third molars may be impacted, meaning that they come in at an abnormal angle, and this can strain your TMJ.
Is TMJ treatment covered by Medicare?
Medicare Part B covers TMJ treatment (even TMJ surgery) as long as it is performed by a qualified physician. If, however, your TMJ treatment falls into the category of pure dentistry, and not general healthcare, Medicare may not cover it. We recommend checking with your provider to be certain about your coverage regarding TMJ treatment. Please note that our practice is not a Medicare Provider and the Federal government dictates the provision of this plan.
Our Houston TMJ Treatment Team is Here for You
If you’re suffering from symptoms of TMD, a Houston doctor focusing on TMJ treatments like Dr. Pettit or Dr. Auvenshine can make a world of difference in your oral and overall health. Contact MedCenter TMJ today to schedule an appointment!
Treating TMJ is Our Focus
We not only diagnose and treat our patients, but strive to educate them during their time in our office. Please utilize these Resources to help you better understand your disorder: