TMJ Disorder (TMD)

tmjChronic jaw pain due to a malfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) should not be taken lightly. At Eastern Virginia Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we understand that jaw dysfunction can lead to a variety of uncomfortable conditions. When left untreated, the symptoms of TMJ Disorder (TMD) can become progressively worse and have a negative effect on quality-of-life. With a variety of specialized treatments, our dentists can help manage, minimize, and resolve the symptoms of TMD by improving the function and comfort of the jaw.

What is TMJ Disorder (TMD)?

When the temporomandibular joints become misaligned or imbalanced, muscular strain, friction, and tissue inflammation can cause pain and limit range of motion. The bite (occlusion) is also typically  compromised, which can cause damage to the teeth. This condition is known as TMJ Disorder (TMD). Although TMD originates in the jaw joint, patients suffering from TMD may experience symptoms in other areas of the body, including the head, neck, shoulders, back, arms, and/or fingers. A complete diagnostic evaluation is the first step toward developing a TMJ treatment plan that can work for you.

What Causes TMJ Disorder?

There is no single cause for TMJ Disorder. TMD can develop as a result of trauma to the joint, a natural anatomical abnormality, or simply overuse of the joint. The causes of TMD can include:

  • Jaw misalignment
  • Chronic clenching or grinding of the teeth
  • Stress
  • Injury to the jaw or the teeth
  • Dislocation of the jaw

In addition, patients with inflammatory conditions that affect the joints, such as arthritis, may have an increased likelihood of developing TMD.

What Are the Symptoms TMJ Disorder?

The most common symptoms of TMJ Disorder are chronic jaw pain accompanied by popping or clicking of the jaw. In some cases this pain is constant, while in others the pain may come and go. The symptoms of advanced cases of TMD often extend beyond the jaw and head, and may include:

  • Locking of the jaw joint
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Popping, clicking, or cracking sounds
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tenderness of the lower face
  • Frequent or severe headaches
  • Toothaches
  • Ear aches
  • Ringing of the ears
  • Dizziness
  • Shoulder, neck, or back pain
  • Numbness in the fingers or arms

Depending upon the symptoms you exhibit and the results of diagnostic testing, our dentists can custom-tailor a TMD treatment plan to provide you with sustained relief.

What TMJ Treatments are Available?

After carefully diagnosing your TMD, our dentists will select the most conservative treatment option that can adequately address your unique needs. Most of these treatment methods are non-surgical and designed to realign the bite, as well as balance the tissues of the TMJ joint. Many of our patients have experienced effective relief from symptoms with use of a specialized oral appliance (night guard). These custom-made oral appliances are designed to optimize jaw alignment and prevent patients from clenching and grinding their teeth during sleep. In some cases, patients may find relief from TMD by addressing orthodontic issues such as an overbite, underbite, or tooth misalignment. Our dentists may recommend an orthodontic treatment such as Invisalign® for these patients.

If you experience jaw pain or any of the other symptoms of TMD listed above, the experienced dental team at Eastern Virginia Family and Cosmetic Dentistry can provide the specialized care you need. Contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our highly skilled dentists.