What is TMJ?

You may have heard someone say “I have TMJ”. This is true as everyone has a TMJ. What these people mostly mean is that they are suffering from a TMJ disorder. Your temporomandibular joints, called TMJ, make opening and closing your mouth possible. Your TMJ can be found on either side of your skull and work in conjunction when you chew, speak or swallow. Muscles and ligaments that are involved in this are also considered part of the TMJ system as is the jaw bone. Your TMJ also operates your mandible — your lower jaw — as it moves forward, backward and side to side.

Each TMJ has a disc of cartilage between the ball and socket of the joint. This spongy disc supports the load while enabling the jaw to open wide and rotate or glide. Any problem that interferes with the proper working of this complicated system of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones can be called a TMJ disorder (TMD). Dentists like Dr. Albert Caves in Columbus GA can diagnose and treat this problem to alleviate the discomfort and stop the progression of dental issues that TMJ disorders can cause.

What Causes TMJ Disorders (TMD)?

Possible causes of TMJ disorders include:

  • Arthritis
  • Dislocation
  • Injury
  • Alignment of jaw and teeth
  • Teeth grinding due to stress

How is TMJ Diagnosed?

A dental examination is needed to diagnosis the issue before treatment can begin. A typical dental examination should include checking the joints and muscles of the jaw for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty of motion.

Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, Dr. Caves may refer you to a physician or a dental specialist for more advanced treatment.

How is TMJ Treated?

For basic cases, there are several methods of treatments for TMJ disorders. These basic lifestyle changes and quick fixes are good to try at home before moving on to more involved in dental or medical treatment. These steps — a “less is more” approach in treating TMJ disorders — include:

  • Eating softer foods
  • Avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
  • Applying heat packs to the pain
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation or biofeedback, to relieve tension in the jaw.

If your symptoms are more severe, the following treatments are the next steps that may be recommended by Dr. Caves:

  • Exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles
  • Medications such as muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-inflammatories
  • Anxiety Medication
  • A mouth guard or bite plate to physically reduce the clenching or grinding of teeth.

In some cases, your dentist may need to correct an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping

some teeth. Orthodontic may even be necessary. Dr. Caves can suggest the most appropriate therapy based on the determined cause.  If you are in the Columbus GA area and think you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, any other dental ailment or just need a cleaning or consultation, please call 706.407.4851 to schedule with Dr. Caves or schedule with our office online.