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What is TMJ?

tmj dentist towsonYou may have once heard someone say “I have TMJ,” which is technically true. Everyone has a TMJ. Your temporomandibular joints, called TMJ for short, make it possible to open and close your mouth. Your TMJ, located on either side of your skull, work together when you chew, speak or swallow and include muscles and ligaments as well as the jaw bone. They also control the lower jaw- called your mandible- as it moves forward, backward and side to side. What these people most likely mean is that they are suffering from a TMJ disorder.

Each TMJ has a disc between the ball and socket of the joint. The disc supports the load while enabling the jaw to open wide and rotate or glide. Any problem that prevents this complicated system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working properly can be called a TMJ disorder. Dentists like Dr. Patrick Ousborne and Dr. Rikki Esterson of Dental Excellence in Towson, MD can diagnose and treat this problem to alleviate the discomfort of TMJ disorders and stop the progression of dental issues that they can cause.

What Causes TMJ Disorders (TMD)?

Possible causes of TMJ disorders include:

  • Arthritis
  • Dislocation
  • Injury
  • Alignment of jaw and teeth
  • Teeth grinding due to stress

How is TMJ Diagnosed?

A dentist must diagnose the condition before treatment can begin. A proper dental exam includes checking the joints and muscles of the jaw for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty of motion, in addition to thoroughly checking the teeth and gums.

Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, your Dental Excellence dentist may refer you to a physician or a dental specialist for more advanced treatment.

How is TMJ Treated?

For simple TMD’s, there are several methods of treatments available. This step-by-step plan allows you to treat with simple at-home remedies before moving on to more complex treatment. These steps advocate for a “less is more” approach in treating TMJ disorders, which includes:

  • Eating softer foods that require less chewing
  • Avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
  • Applying heat packs to the pain
  • Practicing relaxation techniques to relieve tension in the jaw, including meditation or biofeedback.

If your symptoms are more severe, the following treatments may be recommended by Dr. Ousborne or Dr. Esterson:

  • Exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles
  • Medications prescribed by your dentist; such as muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-anxiety drugs or anti-inflammatory medications
  • A mouth guard or bite plate to reduce clenching or grinding of teeth.

In more severe cases, your dentist may recommend correcting an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping some teeth. Orthodontic treatment with braces may even be needed. Your Dental Excellence dentist can suggest the most appropriate therapy based on the determined cause.  If you are in the Towson, MD area and think you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, any other dental ailment or just need a cleaning or consultation, please call (410) 514-6553 to schedule with Dr. Ousborne or Dr. Esterson at Dental Excellence or schedule with our office online.