TMJ / TMD

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ)

TMJ often causes severe pain and discomfort and can be temporary or last many years. But it can be treated.

VSP Dental is for patients who expect the highest level of care and expertise coupled with state-of-the-art technology to solve even the most complex dental problems all under one roof.

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Dr. Vaibhavi Patel

Considered One of the Top General, Cosmetic, and Implant Dentists in South-Central Virginia.

Patients throughout Virginia love Dr. Patel for her expertise in a wide range of dental treatments, including cosmetic dentistry, dental implants – including the full-mouth or “Teeth-in-a-Day” procedure – and sleep apnea. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine and has advanced training in same-day smile design.

With such comprehensive dental knowledge, Dr. Patel is prepared to solve the most complex dental problems all under one roof. As a result, we save you time and money by delivering all of your care in one convenient location, without referring you to other offices all over town.

about TMJ

What are the causes of TMJ?

Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, commonly called “TMJ,” are a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement. We don’t know for certain how many people have TMJ disorders, but some estimates suggest that over 10 million Americans are affected. The condition appears to be more common in women than in men.

For most people, pain in the area of the jaw joint or muscles does not signal a serious problem. Generally, discomfort from these conditions is occasional and temporary, often occurring in cycles. The pain eventually goes away with little or no treatment. Some people, however, develop significant, long-term symptoms.

While the causes of TMJ aren't perfectly understood yet, oral surgeons believe symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of your jaw or with the parts of the joint itself.

Injury to your jaw, the joint, or the muscles of your head and neck — like from a heavy blow or whiplash — can lead to TMJ. 

Other causes include:

  • Grinding or clenching your teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the joint
  • Movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the joint
  • Arthritis in the joint
  • Stress, which can cause you to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth
What are the treatment options for TMJ?

There are various treatment options for TMJ to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms your diagnosis, Dr. Patel will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care combined with professional care. Treatment takes time to become effective, Dr. Patel can help you have a healthier, more comfortable jaw.

The initial goal is to relieve muscle spasms and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, or muscle relaxant. Steroids can be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:

  • Resting your jaw
  • Keeping your teeth apart when you're not swallowing or eating
  • Eating soft foods
  • Applying ice and heat
  • Exercising your jaw
  • Practicing good posture

Stress management techniques such as physical therapy may be recommended, as well as an appliance. A splint or nightguard fits over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep your teeth apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A nightguard helps you stop clenching or grinding your teeth and reduces muscle tension at night. It also helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relieves pressure on parts of your jaw, and aids in disk repositioning. Appliances may be worn 24 hours/day or just at night, to move your jaw into proper position. Appliances also help protect tooth wear.

TMJ Surgery
If your TMJ disorder has affected how your teeth fit together, you may need further treatment such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics, jaw reconstruction, or restorative dental work. Surgical options, such as arthroscopy and open joint repair, are reserved for severe cases. Our doctors at VSP Dental do not consider TMJ surgery unless the jaw is dislocated and nonreducible, has severe degeneration, or the patient has undergone appliance treatment unsuccessfully.
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