Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a condition that occurs when your jaw joint falls out of alignment. Your temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to your skull, and it is one of the most complex joints in your body. It is responsible for the proper movement and function of your jaw, and facilitates routine actions such as chewing, talking, swallowing, and yawning.
TMJ can result in chronic jaw and facial pain, and it is common to experience severe migraine headaches from the condition. If you are suffering from debilitating pain associated with TMJ, Fairfax neuromuscular dentist Dr. Mostafa Aboulkhair can help you alleviate these symptoms so that you can enjoy a pain-free life once again.
Causes of TMJ
The exact cause of TMJ is often unknown since there are many potential reasons for your jaw to become misaligned. However, potential causes of the condition may include:
- Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or head and neck muscles after a strong blow to the head
- Dislocation of the disc which provides cushioning between the ball and socket of your temporomandibular joint
- Grinding your teeth
- Cartilage damage, often due to arthritis
- Stress, which may cause you to repeatedly tighten facial and jaw muscles by clenching your teeth
The Dangers of Untreated TMJ
Failure to treat TMJ can lead to chronic pain in the face, jaw, ears, back, and neck. This can cause you to rely on prescription pain medication for relief. Unfortunately, regular consumption of pain medication will not correct the condition and prevent symptoms from arising in the future; it will just temporarily minimize your pain.
TMJ can also have serious consequences for your oral health. A misaligned jaw will impact your bite, causing uneven tooth wear which may require expensive dental procedures down the road to restore a proper bite. TMJ can make chewing difficult and uncomfortable, preventing you from receiving many of the nutrients you need.
When your jaw becomes misaligned, it impacts your neck and back muscles as well. This can lead to a sloped, hunched posture which affects your bone strength and muscle tension.
Your TMJ treatment will consist of two phases. During the first phase of treatment, Dr. Aboulkhair will work to relieve the painful TMJ symptoms you are experiencing. This can be accomplished using:
- Over-the-counter NSAID medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin
- Pain killers
- Corticosteroid drugs
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Muscle relaxants
Once your pain has been alleviated, our Fairfax neuromuscular dentists will work to correct the alignment issues with your jaw and restore your bite to its ideal resting position. Depending on the nature of your condition, Dr. Aboulkhair may recommend one of the following non-surgical treatments:
- Comfort guard to be worn at night to provide comfort to your teeth, joints, and muscles
- Full time removable neuromuscular orthotic device to be worn all day and night
- Fixed orthotic device to be worn all day and night
- Restorative dentistry procedures
- Orthodontic treatment