The TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) is the jaw joint. It connects the jaw with the skull. When functioning properly, it enables chewing, speaking, yawning, and other jaw movements. However, if one or both of these joints are misaligned or damaged, they can cause jaw pain, chronic headaches, grinding of teeth, and other symptoms related to TMJ dysfunction.
In the past, TMJ dysfunction was poorly understood by the medical community, making diagnosis and treatment challenging. Today, we understand more than ever about why people experience jaw pain and migraine pain than ever before. Whereas the traditional approach to dentistry focuses exclusively on the teeth, we also look for problems with the jaws and neck. The mouth is not a separate entity, but rather interconnected with other structures.
Causes of migraines
Extensive research has found the trigeminal nerve to be the source of migraine pain.
TMJ dysfunction symptoms and treatment
The most common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction include:
- Stiff muscles in the jaws
- Pain traveling through the jaw, face, or neck
- Locking or restricted movement of the jaws
- Popping or clicking sounds when moving the jaws
- Changes in the way that upper and lower teeth align
In some cases, jaw pain may resolve with no treatment. Often, simple changes in habits such as eating softer foods can relieve the pain. Traditionally, medical treatment ranged from muscle relaxers or the application of ice packs to jaw surgery in difficult cases.
For patients who do not respond to simple, conservative therapies, we will customize a treatment plan to address your unique needs. We begin with an examination and taking x-rays for a precise diagnosis. Treatment often includes cold laser therapy, which is applied at specific acupressure points to ease pain and hasten healing. This same cold laser can even be used to ease stress-induced pain. We also use ultrasound, massage, electrical stimulation, and other therapeutic techniques. Additionally, we offer custom-made oral appliances, which help prevent recurring symptoms by keeping your jaws properly aligned.
Don’t let chronic pain get you down. Call Richmond Smile Center at 804.417.7203 and schedule an examination to determine if you may have TMJ disorder.