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Ballston Dental Arts
900 N Taylor Street, Suite 150, Arlington, VA 22203

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Do You Have TMJ?

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The joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull have an important role to play. They are called the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), and they’re important for opening and closing your mouth. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to talk, sing, chew food, or yawn. Unfortunately, the joints can be affected by a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder. It’s more commonly called TMJ disorder, and it’s something to see your dentist in Arlington about. The damage or misalignment associated with TMJ can cause problems like pain, ringing in the ears, or a stiff jaw. You may even have trouble opening and closing your mouth.

TMJ disorder isn’t a straightforward issue, and there may be several factors at play. For some people, genetics influence whether they develop a TMJ disorder. Injury to your jaw, unrelieved stress, untreated orthodontic issues, or chronic teeth grinding (bruxism) can also contribute to the development of this condition. Learn about the causes and signs of TMJ disorders so that you’ll know what to be on the lookout for and can seek dental treatment if needed.

TMJ Disorder Symptoms

Talk to your dentist in Arlington if you are experiencing:

  1. Pain or discomfort — in the jaw, neck, shoulders, ears, or face
  2. Discomfort when opening and closing your mouth
  3. Unusual sounds (pops, clicks) when you open your mouth
  4. Inability to open or close your mouth without great difficulty
  5. Mealtime troubles with biting and chewing
  6. Tinnitus (ringing or other incessant sounds in the ears)
  7. Recurring headaches or ear discomfort

When you are having TMJ disorder symptoms, your dentist in Arlington may do an exam of your jaw area. Next, the dentist will talk to you about the symptoms you have been experiencing recently as well as your medical history. Depending on what the dentist notices during the exam, X-rays or other imaging tests may be the next step. Medical imaging will help your dentist see not only the joints but also the bones and muscles surrounding them.

How to Address TMJ Disorders

The symptoms of TMJ disorders can be miserable, but effective treatment is available. Your dentist will talk to you about the many options available for  treatment, including both surgical and non-surgical options. Which approach you need may depend on the underlying causes of your condition and how much pain or stiffness you are experiencing. Fortunately, lifestyle changes and other non-surgical interventions are highly effective in many cases. A comprehensive treatment plan may also include over-the-counter or prescription medication. Sessions with a physical therapist can help too. By following the regimen set forth by your dentist, you may soon start to notice a reduction in your TMJ disorder symptoms.

Non-surgical Help for TMJ Disorder Symptoms

Your dentist may encourage you to try a variety of non-surgical TMJ disorder interventions before considering more involved procedures. Many patients benefit from oral physical therapy. Through physical therapy sessions, you may be able to strengthen your jaw and gain renewed flexibility. A physical therapist will work with you to perform exercises and stretches. Taking anti-inflammatory medicine might be another way to reduce your discomfort and help the symptoms subside. Your dentist will let you know whether you are a good candidate for medication treatment.

Sometimes, the biggest difference in the recovery process comes from making lifestyle changes. Your dentist might advise:

  1. Not eating foods that require a lot of chewing (such as sticky, hard, or crunchy items)
  2. Being careful about how far you open your mouth when yawning or singing
  3. Giving up habits like biting your fingernails or chewing on pen caps
  4. Alleviating stress through yoga, meditation, or other self-care exercises

See Your Dentist About TMJ Disorder

While medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes are helpful, you may need additional TMJ disorder support from your dentist. Perhaps you would benefit from an oral splint. That’s a removable device that goes over some of your teeth. Wearing a TMJ splint may help you stop grinding your teeth, or it could relieve some of the pressure on your jaw. Another step that your dentist might suggest is orthodontic treatment. If you have poor bite alignment, orthodontic therapy might fix that problem. That, in turn, could improve your other symptoms. An orthodontist might suggest getting braces or using retainers to correct the position of your jawbone and your teeth.

Occasionally, patients need surgery to fix their jaw problems. Surgery is usually performed only in severe cases that haven’t been helped by more conservative treatment measures. Some surgical procedures focus on removing excess fluid from the temporomandibular joints. That procedure can be effective in bringing down jaw inflammation. If necessary, it’s also possible to replace the damaged joints with artificial ones.

If you think you might have a TMJ disorder, please see your dentist in Arlington. You can receive an official diagnosis from your dental practitioner. You can also learn about safe and effective treatment methods for correcting TMJ disorders. With a dentist’s help, you can stop the progress of this debilitating condition so that it doesn’t continue to worsen. The treatment should help you find relief from your current symptoms as well.

Many people suffer from temporomandibular joint disorder, but that doesn’t mean that this condition is normal or something you must learn to live with. Rather, TMJ disorder is an uncomfortable problem worth addressing. Your dentist can help identify the cause of your symptoms. Your pain, swelling, tinnitus, and jaw stiffness might be related to genetics, stress, injury, or nighttime grinding.

If you are having problems with TMJ disorder or other mouth issues, your dentist in Arlington is there to help. Our office looks forward to supporting your oral health needs. When you need help with symptom management or a treatment plan, please reach out. Give our office a call to schedule an appointment to discuss any oral health concerns.

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Ballston Dental Arts

900 N Taylor Street, Suite 150, Arlington, VA 22203

(703) 291-3111