TMJ disorders are an orthopedic problem requiring long-term management. Our goal is to provide you the skills, the tools, and the support necessary for life-long success.
Why must TMJ disorders be managed?
It is important to remember that once your TMJ has had an injury or problem, you will always be more prone to future injury or discomfort than someone who has never had a TMJ issue. Unfortunately, our jaw joints are rarely permanently fixed. Like a bad back or bad knee, there may be limitations that last a life-time. We do however, feel that you can be well prepared to maintain comfort for your jaw joint as a result of your treatment and training with us. With proper long-term management, more permanent improvements to your TMD symptoms typically occur with time.
Will I need to wear an appliance for the rest of my life?
It is typically recommended that you use an orthotic device during the treatment phase, and then continue to use this device for long-term protection during your sleeping hours. There may be times you will want to wear your appliance more during the day. Fluctuations in the level of your stress are inevitable. Your general health, nutritional status, sleep quality, psychologic stress, injury, and grief may all cause your symptom threshold to change. During times of increased stress, you will want to provide supportive care to your jaw muscles and joints to help prevent any discomfort.
What can I do to limit TMJ flare-ups?
In addition to using your orthotic appliance, moist heat therapy is recommended to help relax the muscles of your jaw, neck and shoulders. These can be purchased online or from most drug stores. The benefit of moisture in heat application is that it helps carry the warmth deeper into your tissues. You can use something as simple as rice or flax-seed in a tube sock, which when heated in a microwave, creates its own moisture for heat therapy. As you begin treatment with us, we will specify the time and positions recommended based on your individual case.
Muscles in pain or spasm will likely benefit from regular massage. Cold can be applied prior to massage to allow less pain during the massage. It is best when massage is followed with moist heat application. Helpful areas for massage include your temples, your lower jaw, and under your cheek bones. We will teach you precise locations suggested for massaging both inside and outside of your mouth.
Movement is very important to maintaining joint and muscle health. We will teach you mouth opening stretches to help increase how wide you can open, as well as help relax your jaw muscles. We will also suggest certain stretches for your neck. Stretching exercises can be performed any time of day and are simple to do. We do not, however, recommend any movements of the jaw against purposeful resistance (such as against hand or finger pressure). Resistance exercises need to be done with supervision to be sure you are not aggravating an existing problem.
Do I need to have my appliance adjusted?
Management is most likely to succeed when based on the knowledge and skills you gained during your treatment phase. At times, home palliative care may not be enough to reduce a TMJ flare-up. Sometimes, the added support of an adjusted or realigned appliance will be necessary. We encourage you to schedule follow-up visits to allow evaluation and adjustment of your appliance at least annually, so we can check in on your appliance and your management quality of life. We will be happy to celebrate your success with you.
As always, please feel free to contact our office to schedule a new patient exam and consultation to assess your TMJ treatment plans for relief of your symptoms. Give us a call, or click here to schedule an appointment.