TMJ Therapy – Port Charlotte, FL

Identifying and Relieving
TMJ Pain

The joint that connects the lower jaw to your skull is called the temporomandibular joint, which is usually abbreviated to TMJ. A problem involving the TMJ may be referred to as a TMD (temporomandibular disorder). Even though TMJ and TMD mean two different things, they are often used interchangeably, which can make things for confusing for patients trying to look up more information about the possible source of their jaw pain. At Caring Way Dentistry of Port Charlotte, you can count on Dr. Villescas and the rest of our team to educate you about TMD and the symptoms and treatments associated with it; call us today to set up a consultation regarding your recurring jaw pain and how TMJ therapy in Port Charlotte, FL can help.

Why Choose Caring Way Dentistry of Port Charlotte for TMJ Therapy?

  • Comfortable Customized Oral Appliances
  • Dentist with Over 20 Years of Experience
  • Enthusiastic, Empathetic, Approachable Team

What is TMJ Disorder?

Woman in need of treatment for T M J disorder

While the TMJ is often spoken of as if it was a single joint, it actually consists of two hinge points in front of each ear. Both hinges connect the lower jaw to the base of the skull, and they are designed to allow you to move your mouth in a way that lets you form words, chew all kinds of food, and open the mouth for breathing if necessary. The TMJ is a very versatile joint that can rotate, glide, and hinge as needed. However, if the tendons, muscles, and joint pads that make up or surround the TMJ become inflamed, they can lead to chronic pain throughout the face as well as headaches and earaches. This is the condition known as TMD, which will be referred to with its more common name, TMJ disorder, from this point forward.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

Man with headache due to T M J dysfunction

Since TMJ disorders happen for a variety of reasons, they affect people in different ways and often require attention from multiple doctors before an accurate diagnosis is made. Common symptoms include:

  • Frequent or constant pain in the jaw, neck, cheeks, or ears
  • Recurring headaches and migraines
  • Stiffness of the jaw
  • A popping, clicking, or grating sound in the jaw
  • Lockjaw
  • Earaches
  • Pain that occurs whenever you try to chew your food
  • A change in the way the upper and lower jaws come together

How are TMJ Disorders Diagnosed?

X-ray of jaw and skull bone used for T M J diagnosis and treatment

Since TMJ disorder shares symptoms with a lot of other conditions, it can be tricky to diagnose. Some people visit multiple specialists before the actual cause of the problem is found. When you notice symptoms that could point to a TMJ disorder, we recommend that you start by calling our dental office for an appointment. Describe all your symptoms, not just the ones that specifically include your mouth and jaw; this is important for helping us figure out whether a TMJ disorder is really to blame. When we examine you, we’ll physically inspect the jawbone and bite to see how the jaws come together.

What are the TMJ Treatment Options?

Hand holding an occlusal splint

This list covers many of the possible treatment options for TMJ disorder that might be recommended depending on the underlying cause and the nature of the issue. A dentist, a TMJ disorder specialist, and an ENT doctor should work together to devise a treatment.

  • Give your jaw a chance to rest by cutting food into smaller pieces, staying away from chewing gum, and not opening your mouth to wide. This can help a mild TMJ disorder correct itself.
  • Massage your jaw muscles, apply a hot compress to the area periodically, and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory if you need to. (This is similar to the way you would treat a normal muscle injury.)
  • Dental office muscle relaxation exercises that have been recommended by your dentist or a TMJ specialist.
  • Try not to slouch, as this can cause the lower jaw to shift forward and the skull to move back onto your spine. Good posture helps keep the jaw in its proper alignment.
  • Have a sleep study performed. Sometimes TMJ disorder is linked to bruxism (grinding teeth in your sleep). In some cases, bruxism might be a side effect of sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder that should be treated immediately.
  • Be aware of your anxiety levels and try to avoid grinding your teeth when stressed.
  • Ask about bite guards, which can be used to treat specific causes of TMJ disorder.
  • In states where medical marijuana is legal, ask your doctor/dentist for a prescription, as it can go a long way towards reducing your pain as well as stress levels.
  • Surgery can be performed as a last resort if the above options have been attempted but have not solved the problem.

Since TMJ disorder is a relatively complicated condition that can have more than one contributing factor, one or more of the above treatment options may be required to effectively manage it.