What Causes TMJ and How Can it be Treated?

Are you worried that the pain in your jaw or your chronic headaches could be TMJ? If so, you’re not alone. Research indicates over 10 million Americans may be affected by temporomandibular joint disorders, commonly referred to as TMJ. 

If you’re concerned about TMJ, Amanda Darling, DDS, and the team at Legacy Dental Care in Ballwin, Missouri, can help. We offer comprehensive dental services — including diagnosis and treatment options for TMJ. 

Our team has created this guide to help you understand TMJ and what causes this disorder, as well as steps you can take to treat it. Read on to learn more!

What is TMJ?

There are two small joints on both sides of your head, located just in front of your ears. These joints are called the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). Inside these small joints are discs of cartilage. The cartilage’s job is to cushion the bones of the joint so it moves smoothly.  

When something goes wrong with these joints, you can develop TMJ disorders, usually referred to as simply TMJ or TMD. People with TMJ usually have discomfort and pain in their jaw, including the muscles and tendons around the joints. Other symptoms of TMJ include:

If you suspect you may have TMJ, it’s important to obtain a diagnosis from Dr. Darling and begin treatment. If left untreated, TMJ can lead to serious complications and affect your ability to swallow, speak, chew, control the muscles in your face, and breathe. 

What causes TMJ?

TMJ develops when the disc of cartilage in the joint is moved out of place or erodes due to wear or arthritis or when the joint itself is damaged. Certain risk factors increase your chances of developing TMJ. These include:

Dr. Darling evaluates your symptoms and dental history to determine the cause of your TMJ. Sometimes, however, people develop TMJ and the exact cause is never determined.   

How is TMJ treated?

The treatment for TMJ depends on the root cause of the disorder. For example, if you’re a chronic tooth grinder, wearing a mouthguard while you sleep can help you stop grinding your teeth and treat or prevent TMJ. 

Once Dr. Darling has determined what’s causing your TMJ, she works with you to create a customized treatment plan. Every treatment plan varies according to each patient’s needs, but may include therapies such as:

In cases where a structural issue causes the TMJ disorder, different treatment options may be required. These include injections into the joint and, in severe cases, surgery may be required.

Ready to learn more about TMJ and how it can be treated? Contact Legacy Dental Care’s Ballwin office at 636-203-7519 and set up an appointment now! 

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