TMJ is the quick way of referring to your Temporomandibular Joint. Pardon the pun, but that’s quite a mouthful! What is this joint, what does it do, and, if your doctor or dentist has told you that you have a TMJ disorder, what can Dr. Herbst do to help?
The Temporomandibular Joint
Your two temporomandibular joints are amazing works of anatomical design. These are the joints where the temporal bone in the skull meets the mandible bone of the jaw, and allow our mouths to open and close, move back and forth, and slide from side to side. Muscle, bone and cartilage work together to provide easy movement and to cushion the joint. But sometimes, the joint doesn’t work as smoothly as it should, and this can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.
When Should You Suspect You Have TMD?
You might have TMD if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Painful chewing
- Pain around your TMJ, or in your face or neck
- Changes in your bite
- Jaws that are limited in movement or lock open or shut
- Clicking, popping or grating noises when you open and shut your jaw
There are many conditions linked to TMD. If you grind your teeth at night, have arthritis in the jaw, have suffered an injury or infection in the area, or have problems with your bite, for example, you might be more likely to experience TMJ problems. If you suspect you have TMD, or suffer from any of the symptoms listed above for an extended period, an oral surgeon like Dr. Herbst can provide the answers you’re looking for.
Why Choose an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons have a minimum of four years of advanced studies in a hospital-based residency program, where they train with medical residents in the fields of general surgery, anesthesiology, internal medicine, and other specialties with a specific focus on the bones, muscles, and skin of the face, mouth, and jaw. They are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat a complex disorder such as TMD.
How Do We Treat TMD?
First, we will check your medical history, and begin with a careful examination of the joint, its movement, and the structures of the head and neck surrounding it. When necessary, we will use imaging studies for further examination of the joint. If indicated, a conservative treatment plan might be recommended:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs and/or over-the-counter pain relievers, ice packs, moist heat compresses
- A custom-fitted mouthguard, bite plate, or bite splint to reduce the effects of bruxism, or teeth grinding
- Orthodontic treatment for a malocclusion (bad bite)
- Physical therapy, which might include exercises for the jaw muscles
- Behavior modification, with techniques to avoid jaw pain (giving up gum chewing, jaw clenching, nail biting), and techniques for relaxation and stress relief.
If these treatments aren’t successful, or if there is damage to the joint, we might suggest surgical options.
- Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed under anesthesia, in which a thin tube with a video lens and light is inserted through a small incision in front of the ear. This technology allows us to get a good look at the joint and the area surrounding it. Depending on the results of our examination, arthroscopic surgery might be used to repair joint damage.
- Arthroplasty, surgery performed under anesthesia, can repair, replace, or reposition damaged parts of the joint. For example, surgery can remove bony growths, repair damage to the articular disc (which cushions your joint) or replace it, and access areas which an arthroscopy can’t.
Luckily, most cases of TMD are temporary and don’t become worse over time. But any persistent discomfort is a good reason to visit our Union City, NJ office. Whether you have TMD, or any other problem causing you pain in the head or jaw, the causes for your temporomandibular joint discomfort can be complicated. We have the unique surgical training and experience to diagnose and treat these remarkable joints.