TMJ & TMD Treatment in Granite Bay, CA

What Is TMJ?

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) refers to a group of related disorders that result from problems with the jaw or jaw joint, or the facial muscles involved in jaw movement. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the small joint located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet; it enables the jaw to move and function normally, and is one of the body’s most frequently used joints. Talking, yawning, chewing and swallowing all involve the TMJ. For the TMJ to function properly, the muscles, ligaments and bones involved in its movement must be working properly; any conditions that prevent them from doing so may cause TMD.

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Types Of TMD

TMDs are usually categorized in one of three ways:

Muscle Disorders

Muscle disorders cause pain and discomfort (myofacial pain) in the muscles surrounding the jaw joint, and in the muscles of the shoulder and neck. This is the most common type of TMD.

Joint-Derangement Disorders

Joint-derangement disorders are structural, as opposed to muscular, conditions. They can be caused by injury to the lower jaw; wear on the joint, such as from bruxism; severe malocclusion; repeated excessive jaw movements; or the dislocation or displacement of the articular disc, which is a component of the TMJ.

Degenerative/Inflammatory Joint Disorders

The overuse or aging of the joint can cause degeneration and/or inflammation. This may be a result of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or a perforated TMJ disc.

A patient may experience one or more of these disorders at the same time.

Causes Of TMJ

What causes TMD is not clear, but symptoms are believed to develop from problems with the jaw muscles or with the joint itself. TMD may be the result of many factors, including the following:

  • Trauma to the head or neck
  • Clenching or grinding of the teeth
  • Bad “bite” or missing teeth
  • Arthritis
  • Malalignment of the upper and lower jaws

Stress may also play a role in developing TMD because it can lead to tightening of jaw muscles and clenching of teeth.

Symptoms Of TMJ

TMDs can cause discomfort and pain that is constant or intermittent, with symptoms that can include:

  • Chronic pain in the face, jaw, neck and shoulders
  • Chronic pain in or around the ear
  • Limited ability to open the mouth wide
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Uncomfortable “bite”
  • Swelling on one or both sides of the face
  • Clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth
  • Headaches and neck aches

Symptoms vary from being barely noticeable to causing seriously debilitating pain. It is also possible that the above symptoms have causes other than TMD.

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Diagnosis Of TMD

In order to diagnose TMD, a physical examination, as well as the following tests, may be performed:

  • Clench test
  • X-rays
  • CT scan or MRI scan
  • Computer bite analysis
  • Joint-vibration analysis

Many tests for diagnosing TMD are designed to rule out other conditions that may be causing the same symptoms.

TMJ/TMD Treatment

Treatment for TMD depends on the severity of the condition, and may include:

  • Stress-reduction exercises
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Low-level-laser therapy
  • Mouth protectors to prevent teeth-grinding
  • Changing diet to soft foods
  • Heat or ice packs
  • Avoidance of extreme jaw movements

More extensive corrective treatments include injections for pain relief. If nonsurgical treatment is unsuccessful or if there is joint damage, surgery may be needed. Types of surgery performed for TMD include:

  • Arthrocentesis
  • Arthroscopy
  • Open joint surgery

Although TMD can be a chronic condition, it can be effectively managed with proper treatment.

Can TMJ Go Away on Its Own?

TMJ may not go away without some form of intervention. Fortunately, most of the remedies for this condition are very conservative. If your jaw pain and other symptoms are caused by overuse, you should see improvement with rest and over-the-counter medication. Once your jaw muscles and joints have relaxed, you'll need to be mindful about returning to the same habit that caused the overuse injury to begin with. Gum-chewing is a common culprit.

If your TMJ symptoms are caused by a bad bite, misalignment in the jaw, or other more significant factors, the problem may not go away on its own. Your dentist can help you determine the cause of your TMJ symptoms and what to do about them.

Is TMJ Permanent?

TMJ disorder is more of a symptom than a condition. Therefore, we expect it to improve or resolve once the underlying factors that are unduly stressing the temporomandibular joints are addressed.

What Happens if it is Left Untreated?

Generally, TMJ isn't considered a serious health condition that requires immediate attention. However, if you're experiencing chronic facial pain, jaw pain, and other symptoms, it is beneficial to address the issue properly. Without adequate care for the condition that is leading to jaw pain and joint dysfunction, the problem could continue to worsen. This may take months or years depending on the severity of the inflammation, misalignment, or degradation of the structures involved. It is wise to correct the cause of your pain early. Doing so can save you from unnecessary stress and discomfort.

Will TMJ Treatment Alleviate My Facial Pain?

The purpose of TMJ treatment is to help you feel more comfortable as soon as possible! Although it is difficult to predict how quickly conservative remedies may work to correct the tension in your jaw, we generally anticipate some degree of improvement with the continued use of the recommended therapies. For example, you may need to switch to a soft food diet, take an over-the-counter medication, and also perform specific jaw exercises for a few weeks to see an improvement. Dr. Mahal will do her best to explain how your treatment may work and what her expectations in terms of improvement.

Is TMJ Causing My Headaches?

It is possible that TMJ could cause headaches. Not just occasional headaches but chronic headaches, even migraines. Some people suffer for years before a connection is made between their TMJ dysfunction and their head pain. The reason these two symptoms are intertwined is that the muscles and ligaments that are involved in moving the jaw are literally intertwined with those that cover the head and neck. This may also be why TMJ is also associated with tinnitus, an ear condition that involves constant ringing. If you experience frequent or chronic headaches, consider talking to Dr. Mahal about your temporomandibular joints!

Does TMD Require Surgery?

In nearly every case of TMJ disorder, conservative treatments are effective at reducing symptoms. When surgical intervention is warranted, cases are considered with the utmost care. Doctors who perform surgical repair for TMJ symptoms are extraordinarily skilled and meticulous in the performance of the joint procedure. TMJ surgery may involve removing excess fluid from the inflamed joint or addressing structural conditions that are causing one or both temporomandibular joints to work inefficiently.

Schedule Your Appointment Today!

To learn more about TMJ or TMD, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Mahal, please call us at 916.800.5001 or click here to schedule an appointment online! Our practice serves Granite Bay and the surrounding areas of California.

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Monday: 9 am – 2 pm
Tuesday: 9 am – 5 pm
Wednesday: 9 am – 5 pm
Thursday: 9 am – 3 pm
Friday: By appointment only

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5280 Douglas Blvd Suite 100
Granite Bay, CA 95746

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