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6 Common Signs of a TMJ Disorder

6 Common Signs of a TMJ Disorder

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are a collection of problems related to the hinge joint of your jaw and the surrounding tissues. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and prompt treatment are important.

At Oral & Facial Plastic Surgery of Mississippi in Flowood, oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Michael Nichols and his team see a lot of cases of TMJ disorders and offer both conservative and surgical treatment options to their patients. Since early intervention is key, and since any treatment takes time to become effective, we want you to know the signs and symptoms so you can seek medical help as soon as possible. Here’s what you need to know.

Causes of TMJ disorders

TMJ dysfunction, also called TM disorders (TMDs), can be caused by any number of things. However, aside from a direct jaw injury, such as a fall or a blow, most of the time TMDs don’t have a readily apparent cause. In fact, they probably develop due to a combination of factors, including genetics, arthritis (attacks the joints), poor posture, repetitive motion such as chewing gum, stress, and oftentimes jaw clenching and teeth grinding, termed bruxism.

6 common signs of a TMJ disorder

TMDs have a number of characteristic symptoms, which arise because the joints and the chewing muscles aren’t working well together. Here are six of the most common:

  1. Pain and tenderness in one or both of the TMJs
  2. A popping, clicking, or grating sound when moving your jaw
  3. Limited range of motion
  4. Locking of the jaw joint
  5. Pain in the temples/headaches/migraine attacks
  6. Difficulty chewing and speaking

If you don’t experience any combination of these symptoms, you may still have a TMD, but you probably don’t require any treatment.

Treating a TMJ disorder

Dr. Nichols uses a variety of treatment options to restore the proper function of your jaw, the specific one(s) depending on the nature and severity of your problem. He’s found, though, that treatment always works best when you combine professional care with a healthy dose of self-care.

The initial treatment goals are to relieve the joint pain and stiffness and muscle spasms. You can start with an over-the-counter pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, but if they’re not strong enough, Dr. Nichols may prescribe a stronger pain killer or a muscle relaxant, or he may recommend a steroid injection delivered directly into the joint to reduce the pain and inflammation.

Oral appliances are one of the most effective treatments, especially if bruxism or jaw position is causing your discomfort. An occlusal splint (aka a nightguard) fits over your top or bottom teeth and physically separates the two rows, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain — you simply can’t clench or grind while it’s in.

An anterior positioning appliance moves your lower jaw forward, relieving pressure, helping with disc repositioning, and reducing tooth wear. You can wear it either just at night or 24 hours/day. An orthotic stabilization appliance moves your jaw into the proper position and holds it there.

Orthodontics is another means of treatment, bringing all your teeth and your jaw into proper alignment.

You can boost the effectiveness of professional treatment by adopting the following tips:

There are surgical options, but Dr. Nichols doesn’t even consider TMJ surgery unless you can’t open your jaw, the jaw is dislocated or has undergone severe degeneration, or you’ve gone through appliance treatment without success.

If you’re experiencing any of the common signs of a TMJ disorder, it’s time to come into Oral & Facial Plastic Surgery of Mississippi for a consultation with Dr. Nichols. Give the office a call at 601-282-9290, or book online with us today.

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