TMJ Treatment in Webster TX
People don’t usually think of the dentist as the health care professional to see for chronic headaches and migraines. Yet dentists are often instrumental in diagnosing and treating many cases of recurring headaches. This is because a number of recurring pains in the head, neck, jaw, and face are caused by conditions in the mouth and the rest of the craniofacial area. For example, recurring pain in the temples on the sides of the head are usually caused by teeth grinding or clenching. In some cases, misalignment in the teeth or jaw area can put pressure on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and lead to pain.
What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ/TMD)?
The TMJs are your jaw joints on both sides of the face. This is the hinge joint that lets you open and closes your mouth. When the jaw joints are damaged because of teeth grinding, trauma, or gum disease, you may experience pain and difficulty chewing and speaking. Left untreated, teeth grinding and clenching (bruxism) may lead to jaw joint problems and frequent headaches.
The three components of your bite — the teeth, the masseter muscles, and the temporomandibular joint — all must work together for the correct function. When the three are working together, you don’t have any facial or jaw pain and chewing is silent. But when one of the three components creates alignment problems, this leads to problems with the bite that will create pain in the jaw and face that can also radiate down into the neck and shoulders.
The pain is due to the continued stress of the misaligned jaw trying to find alignment. Considering we use our jaws and the temporomandibular joint almost continually for eating, talking, breathing during exertion, and even yawning, the constant pressure caused by misalignment creates overused muscles and tension. This leads to pain originating in the joint and spreading outward.
Unfortunately, not many doctors or dentists have trained with TMJ and they can misdiagnose the cause of your TMJ pain. But if you have symptoms of TMJ, the team at Clear Lake Dental can get to the bottom of it.
What will happen if TMJ is left untreated?
TMJ disorder can become a frustrating, chronic problem. That is why, when conservative therapies do not provide relief, surgery is the next logical step. Without proper treatment, TMJ disorder can result in chronic jaw pain, joint damage, chronic headaches or migraines, ear pain, disordered sleep, and a generally lower quality of life.
What Is Bruxism?
Teeth grinding, or bruxism often coincides with TMJ symptoms. The habitual clenching and grinding that characterizes bruxism usually occur subconsciously – often during sleep. There are numerous reasons why a person may grind their teeth, and it is worth exploring relevant factors. In some cases, bruxism is related to a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. Both can be and need to be treated to improve overall health. At Clear Lake Dental Care, our experienced dentists can conduct a thorough evaluation to determine if TMJ symptoms are caused by bruxism and/or obstructive sleep apnea.
Bruxism relates to TMJ disorder in two ways. One, when grinding continues for years without proper treatment, wear facets develop on teeth. This diminishes the structure of the teeth that are receiving the most force of clenching and grinding. Initially, bruxism may cause persistent tooth sensitivity. Over time, however, the bite may decline and the temporomandibular joints that have been pressed upon time and time again suffer damage.
What Can be Done For Teeth Grinding?
Several strategies may be implemented to reduce teeth grinding, including:
- Obtain an evaluation for obstructive sleep apnea.
- Reduce stress and anxiety with lifestyle techniques such as yoga and stillness. If necessary, talk with your medical doctor about medication for ongoing anxiety or use essential oils known for reducing stress.
- Limit consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine. These are psychoactive substances that commonly lead to sleep disorders, including teeth grinding.
See your dentist for a thorough dental examination and fitting for a custom-made nightguard.
See What Our Patients Have To Say
“All my life I have hated going to the dentist, until coming to Dr. Das’ office. I have no tolerance for pain and dental work, even the noise is a problem for me. I have and will continue to refer anyone to Dr. Das as I have never found a dentist or staff that is nicer, more professional, and yet very personal. Each staff member that I have dealt with has been wonderful. They ALL care. I have no pain and a smile that I am proud of. I hope you do not change a thing. I really appreciate the fact that I don’t have a long wait when I have an appointment. Dr. Das makes me feel that I am as important to him as he is to me. Thanks to all of you for everything.” – Karen P.
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Symptoms of TMJ
Millions of people across the country are affected by TMD, but many of those people don’t know the signs that indicate they are suffering from TMD, nor do they know what causes TMD. Here is a list of the most common signs of TMJ:
- Migraines and Headaches
- Head and Neck Pain, and
- Popping sounds when opening or closing your mouth
- Clicking sounds when you open or close your mouth
If you experience any of these common symptoms frequently, consult your dentist in Webster right away. You may be suffering from TMJ disorder (TMD). Clear Lake Dental Care is here to offer migraine headache prevention and relief in your current problem.
My jaw pops and clicks when I eat. Does this mean I have TMJ?
Your temporomandibular joint should be silent when chewing or biting. This means your alignment is normal. But if you hear popping, clicking, or cracking sounds when you chew or otherwise open your mouth, that is a sign of problems with the joint. A call to the team at Clear Lake Dental is in order.
What To Expect From Your TMJ Treatment?
To diagnose and rule out other causes of the pain, your dentist will perform a thorough oral examination. For immediate and long-term relief from pain caused by TMD, your dentist may recommend behavior modification, eating soft foods for a few days to reduce stress on the jaw joints, gentle stretching exercises, anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, biofeedback, stress management, and other conservative therapies. Surgery is usually performed when all other treatments have failed.
Your dentist may also recommend mouthguards or nightguards. A mouthguard is a plastic oral appliance that’s custom made for your teeth. It fits over the teeth and helps eliminate grinding and reduce pressure on the jaw joint and surrounding structures. A custom nightguard is a mouthguard worn when you sleep.
How successful is TMJ surgery?
Clinical studies indicate that arthroscopic surgery for TMJ disorder can be very successful at reducing or eliminating symptoms and improving range of motion. Studies have followed patients as long as 10 years after the TMJ procedure and have demonstrated pain reduction of several points on self-reported scales.
How safe is TMJ surgery?
Complications of arthroscopic TMJ surgery are rare. These risks are discussed during the consultation for more comprehensive treatment. They include:
- Prolonged numbness
- Temporary nerve damage that affects facial movement
- Damage to the outer, middle, or inner ear that affects hearing
Do all patients with TMJ require surgery?
Will TMJ treatment Help my teeth grinding?
What if I have a restorative treatment and still grind my teeth?
Just as teeth grinding is detrimental to natural enamel, causing this hard material to wear down and crack, it is also harmful to dental restorations.
The force of teeth grinding travels through teeth into the root system. As this energy passes through, the gums are also affected and may begin to recede away from tooth structure. Gum recession around dental crowns creates a risk for infection and decay at the root level. Furthermore, bruxism can prevent a person from being a good candidate for dental implants, as the pressure on gums and bone is too substantial to support the optimal integration of implant posts.
How to prepare for TMJ Surgery?
The TMJ surgeon conducts a very thorough consultation before surgery. At this appointment, patients can ask whatever questions arise as a result of their discussion. Patients are also encouraged to contact the office if questions come to mind after their appointment.
Some medications and supplements can increase the risk of bleeding and bruising by thinning the blood. Patients who take prescription blood-thinners should alert their dentist and may be advised to switch medication if possible before their procedure. Some over-the-counter medications and supplements can also increase the risk of bleeding and bruising. The TMJ surgeon may provide a general list to avoid.
Patients who smoke are strongly encouraged to quite before undergoing surgery. Smoking significantly inhibits the body’s ability to heal by slowing down circulation and inhibiting proper oxygenation of the blood.
After TMJ surgery, patients need to consume a liquid diet and resume eating with a soft food diet. Pre-surgery meal-planning and shopping can be extremely beneficial for early recovery.
Patients who undergo arthroscopic TMJ surgery may be instructed to bring their current TMJ splint to their appointment, if they wear one.
TMJ surgery is an outpatient procedure. After surgery, the patient may have specific post operative instructions to follow. These may include:
- Consume a liquid diet
- Apply ice packs as needed to the sides of the face
- Change the dressing and apply a topical antibiotic ointment such as neosporin if the dressing gets wet or simply needs to be changed.
- If an occlusal splint has been inserted, wear it at all times unless otherwise instructed.
- If it has been advised, schedule a visit with a physical therapist one to two days after the procedure.
These and other post operative instructions should be followed for 24 to 48 hours.
Patients may also take one or more prescription medications to help them through their recovery period. These may include antibiotics, analgesics for comfort, and a muscle relaxant. All medications should be taken strictly as directed.
Postoperative follow-up appointments may be scheduled 3 and 6 weeks after TMJ surgery to assess the progress of recovery. If questions or concerns arise before a scheduled visit, patients should promptly contact the office.
Will There Be Scarring After TMJ surgery?
Most TMJ surgery is done arthroscopically, so there are only a couple of small minor incisions to insert the arthroscope and the necessary small surgical tools. Scarring is virtually invisible.
If you have open surgery to better access the TMJ joint, there will be a scar. This surgery is rarely required.
Are there steps I can do at home to help with TMJ pain?
The key to treating TMJ is to ascertain if the patient’s jaw is in alignment or not. If your jaw is out of alignment, you’ll likely continue to have problems and pain until it is corrected with treatments such as custom mouth guards and other dental procedures with Dr. Das and our team.
However, if your TMJ is due to causes such as ongoing stress, posture, of other types of strain, you may be able to improve your TMJ with a series of exercises. These exercises are meant to stretch the tight jaw muscles, relax the jaw, strengthen the jaw muscles, increase mobility in the jaw, and decrease jaw clicking.
Here is the list of common exercises to help with TMJ:
- Relaxed jaw exercise — Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Consciously let your lower jaw relax downward, slightly separating your teeth.
- Goldfish exercises — Place an index finger in front of your ear where your TMJ is located. Put another finger on your chin. Open your jaw either halfway or all the way and feel the slight resistance.
- Chin tuck — Lightly link your hands behind your bottom to push your shoulders forward. Now pull your chin straight back as if you’re trying to create a double chin.
- Jaw resistance — Put your thumb under your chin and create some resistance as you open your mouth. Pinch your chin with forefingers and thumb of both hands to hold it when your mouth is open. Then close your mouth feeling the resistance.
- Tongue up — Hold your tongue up against the roof of your mouth, and then slowly open and close your mouth.
- Side-to-side and forward jaw movement — Place an object that’s about ¼ inch between your front teeth. First, move your jaw slowly from side to side with the object between your teeth. Then do the same thing, but this time move your bottom jaw forward so your bottom teeth are in front of your top teeth.
Can TMJ Be Prevented?
At Clear Lake Dental, we can quickly spot the signs of teeth grinding and continued jaw clenching. The key to preventing TMJ is a good bite. We can help you with that.
If you’ve had some past issues, but your bite is OK, you can try some of these changes in behavior to help from developing the stresses of TMJ again:
- Avoid grinding or clenching during the day.
- Eat less chewy and hard foods that require extensive chewing.
- Keep your face relaxed with your lips together and your teeth apart.
- Massage your jaw, cheeks, and temples regularly.
- Chew on both sides of your mouth.
- Be cognizant of your posture.
- Don’t rest your chin on your hand.
- Support your lower jaw lightly with your hand when yawning.
- Don’t chew on hard objects such as pens, fingernails, and the like.
- Don’t cradle a phone between your neck and shoulder.