Many factors influence a person's general well-being, including oral and dental health. If an individual has a problem with his or her jaw or the jaw muscles that control it, they will have problems talking, yawning, or even chewing. This is most likely a symptom of temporomandibular disorder (TMD), which arises when the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) does not function properly. The temporomandibular disorder is a dental problem that our specialists at The Whittier Dentist will diagnose. We invite you to contact us if you have this dental issue or other dental problems in Los Angeles.

Understanding TMJ and TMD

A human's mouth is designed to perform various vital roles for survival and overall well-being. It's through the mouth that humans breathe, converse verbally, and consume food. Jaw movement is what allows you to open and close your mouth. When this occurs, an individual can do things like chew, talk, and even yawn. A problem with the jaws or its muscles will impair jaw function, making it hard for an individual to execute some oral duties.

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ in short, is the link that allows you to open and close your mouth. The joint is located in front of the ears at the skull's base. It functions similarly to a door hinge, connecting the mandible to the maxilla. The joint allows the mandible, which is the lower jaw, to move up and down, which allows the mouth to function properly by opening and closing. TMJ also allows the mandible to move backward, forward, and side to side.

However, if the jaw isn't working properly, it indicates that the mouth wouldn't be able to carry out some of its basic duties. This necessitates a visit to a dental specialist, who would recommend a variety of therapies, such as at-home treatments as well as, in some cases, surgery, to provide relief.

How Can You Detect If Something is Wrong?

A dentist would need to undertake several examinations to identify temporomandibular disorders (TMD). However, before that, an individual would suffer certain symptoms that would encourage them to book an appointment with a dental specialist. Among these are:

  • Tenderness or pain in the jaw muscles when yawning or chewing. Any discomfort or agony is a clear indication that something's wrong
  • Hearing a clicking sound when a person tries to close or open their mouth. This indicates that something is awry since the patient's jaw is locking in place
  • Misaligned upper and lower teeth when a person closes his or her mouth
  • Migraines, headaches, earaches, as well as pressure behind the eyes, can all be signs that your jaw isn't functioning properly

TMD treatment should begin as soon as possible before the issue worsens. That's why, if you suffer any of these symptoms, you should seek treatment as soon as possible.

The Causes of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

A problem with the joint that links the jaw to your skull indicates that it has either been injured or damaged. Medical specialists may not yet fully comprehend what causes injury or damage. However, it has been discovered that several factors contribute to the muscle tightness and dysfunction associated with TMD.

However, it's unclear if any of these issues cause TMD or are a result of the signs the patient is experiencing. A whiplash or strong hit to the affected area could, for example, cause an injury to the jaws or muscles around the head and neck. Other probable causes of TMD include:

  • Grinding or clenching one's teeth—for some individuals, grinding and clenching their teeth has become a habit they can't easily quit. What people don't realize is that grinding or clenching their teeth puts a lot of strain on the temporomandibular joints, which can lead to TMD. Some people unconsciously clench or grind their teeth when awake to cope with anger, stress, or to boost their attention
  • Anxiety and stress can lead an individual to tense his or her facial muscles and jaw, as well as their teeth, which would injure their jaw muscles
  • Chewing gum excessively
  • Soft tissue or disc dislocation between the ball and the joint socket
  • Arthritis or inflammation of the temporomandibular joint, as well as other illnesses caused by muscular inflammation that would affect the TMJ
  • Orthodontic braces
  • Trauma to the teeth or jaw- this could result in a fractured or dislocated jaw. When someone tries to yawn, talk, chew, or simply open their mouth, they will experience pain from a misaligned jaw

Possible Indications of TMD

The most common indication of TMD is pain in one's jaw joint. This joint is located between a person's ears. In most situations, TMD pain could also be felt in the face, eye, neck, forehead, or ears. The pain would be temporary or it would last for many years. It can sometimes only affect one side of your face, and sometimes it would affect both sides. Other common TMD symptoms include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the affected jaw. It would be more noticeable in the area of the affected joint
  • The popping or clicking of the jaw is also known as crepitus. The sound would be more noticeable when moving one's joint. Occasionally the sound is muffled, and sometimes it's loud enough for others to hear
  • Blurred vision
  • Pain that seems more like a sore tooth but isn't on the tooth
  • Some crackling sounds or aches in one's ears
  • Ringing noises or pops in the ear are also referred to as tinnitus. A person would occasionally feel pressure or fullness in their ears
  • Recurrent headaches, and occasionally migraines
  • Soreness and stiffness in the jaw muscles or right neck
  • Contractions of the muscles of the affected jaw
  • Numbness and tingling on one's chin, or soreness in the jaw, cheek, mouth, or face
  • Some pain on the tongue's surface
  • Shoulder pain
  • A lump, swelling, or soreness around the temple area
  • Sometimes it is difficult to open one's mouth wide
  • Jaw dislocation or locking is commonly known as lockjaw. It would be felt after yawning
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Difficulty chewing, yawning, talking, and doing anything that requires opening the mouth
  • A fatigued look on the face

Pain During Dental Care

If you suffer from TMJ, performing basic dental hygiene can be uncomfortable. You may experience pain or discomfort while brushing, flossing, or getting regular dental cleanings. Even if you have TMD issues, you could still maintain good oral hygiene and clean your teeth by following these tips:

  • Brush your teeth with a sonic or soft-bristle toothbrush
  • Include an antiseptic mouth rinse as part of your regular oral hygiene practice. The mouth rinse will clean your mouth of harmful bacteria
  • If you can't open your mouth because of the pain, you can clean your teeth using a rubber tip stimulator or a water flosser
  • Consider using pain killers if you're continually in pain throughout the dental care
  • Request that your dentist recommends alternatives to flossing for eradicating plaque from your mouth. For example, your dentist would offer alternative teeth cleaning methods such as wiping the teeth with cotton gauze

Diagnosis of TMD

With so many symptoms as described above, it's difficult to tell if someone has TMD right away. Again, different illnesses have similar symptoms. For example, gum disease, tooth decay, and arthritis would cause discomfort, pain, trouble opening one's mouth, and swelling, similar to TMD. That's why it's critical to seek assistance from a qualified dentist to confirm that the diagnosis is right.

A skilled dentist will inquire about your general health to determine what is wrong with your gums, jaws, or teeth. He or she would also do a physical assessment to confirm that the treatment recommended is appropriate for your problem. During the physical assessment, the dentist will examine your TMJs for soreness and pain. He or she would also listen for any grating, clicking, or popping sounds as you move the jaw joints. Your dental specialist will examine your jaw to ensure that it is functioning properly and that it doesn't lock when you open or close your mouth. He or she would also examine your chewing and biting to look for any problems with your facial muscles.

Your dentist would suggest a full X-ray to get a better look at your teeth, jaws, and TMJs to rule out any additional issues. Other tests that a dentist can perform include magnetic resonance imaging and computer tomography. When a person moves his or her jaws, an MRI would show if the temporomandibular joint discs are in their appropriate position. On the other hand, a CT scan would reveal the bone features of the injured jaw joint.

If an issue is discovered quickly, you could be referred to an oral surgeon for care and treatment. This doctor specializes in surgical operations involving the jaw area, face, and mouth. You may also be referred to an orthodontist, who would examine your joints, teeth, and muscles to confirm that they are functioning properly.

Treatment for TMJ Disorders

Fortunately, most of the symptoms indicated above can be relieved by a person doing activities on their own. Some of the therapies listed above could also be recommended by your dentist. The good news is that the majority of the home treatments mentioned are harmless and would assist the patient to relax as well as reduce tension. Modern remedies, in addition to home therapies, could be able to assist you to manage your TMD.

Home Remedies for TMD

One of the most popular treatments your dentist could offer is the application of cold packs or ice to the area around the afflicted joint. It is also something that the patient could perform on their own and is free of charge. Cold packs and ice will help to ease not only the pain but also any swelling. Ice packs can be used for as little as 10 minutes.

Your dentist would also advise you to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. These include Aleve, ibuprofen, and naproxen, among others. Pain relievers like acetaminophen and aspirin would also be essential to alleviate pain and reduce swelling. Eating soft, not hard foods, as well as avoiding gum, could also be beneficial. Hard foods and prolonged gum chewing put greater pressure on the afflicted joint, making the condition worse. Mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, cooked fruits, and yogurt are just a few of the things your dentist could recommend. For the time being, chewy meals, as well as large and thick bites that require you to open your mouth wider, could be avoided.

Self-stretching and gentle massage exercises for the jaw and neck muscles could also be beneficial to patients. Your dental specialist can refer you to a physiotherapist or doctor who can show you some of the ideal stretches you could do at home to improve your condition. When first starting with TMJ exercises, take it slowly. It's normal to feel discomfort and some pain as you begin the workouts. However, the discomfort is mild and will progressively lessen.

If the pain and discomfort during TMJ workouts are extreme, you should notify your dentist. Also, if you do TMJ workouts when your muscles are strained, you would not benefit from them. It's unclear how TMJ workouts help to alleviate joint pain. However, the workouts serve to strengthen the muscles. Exercises also aid in the relaxation and stretching of jaw muscles. TMJ exercises can help you improve jaw mobility and decrease jaw clicking.

Managing stress and techniques for relaxation would aid in the reduction of tooth clenching and grinding. As previously stated, these are the most common causes of TMJ disorders. The use of certain soothing essential oils would provide the patient with temporary relief from the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders. Clary sage, lavender, sweet marjoram, and chamomile are some examples. In addition to home remedies, your dentist would suggest the following:

  • That the patient avoids making extreme jaw movements. Keeping talking, chewing, singing, yawning, and yelling to a minimum would assist in relaxing the patient's jaw muscles for faster relief
  • The patient should try not to rest his or her jawbone on their palm, and he or she should avoid using his/her phone while holding it between his or her shoulder and ear. Good posture can help relieve neck and facial pain
  • That a patient could strive to maintain his or her teeth as far apart as possible. It's a great technique to ease jaw tension. If you have a habit of clenching or grinding your teeth, try keeping your tongue between the teeth at least during the day
  • Learn some relaxing techniques that can help you relax your jaw

TMD Medical Treatment

Home treatments are not guaranteed to be effective. If these don't work for you, you could opt to pursue a medical remedy to effectively treat TMJ disorders and eliminate all symptoms. Some treatments will not give a complete cure for temporomandibular disorder, but they can give temporary and/or occasionally long-term relief from soreness and other symptoms. Some examples are:

  1. Dental Splints

Dental splints, also known as stabilization splints, bite guards, or occlusal splints, are used to protect the teeth. They're dental appliances that are inserted into your mouth to hold the teeth in place and prevent you from grinding your teeth. Dental splints, which resemble mouth guards, are often prescribed and fitted by a jaw specialist.

  1. BotoxA medical specialist would prescribe it to help the patient ease the jaw muscles.
  1. PhysiotherapyExercising your jaw muscles can help them become stronger, more flexible, and have a wider range of motion.
  1. Ultrasound

This type of treatment involves applying deep heat to the affected joints to enhance movement and relieve pain. Trigger point injections could be recommended by a professional dentist as a remedy for TMDs. To reduce the pain and discomfort associated with TMD, anesthesia is injected into specific trigger spots on the facial muscles.

TMD patients can also benefit from radio wave therapy or treatment. It entails stimulating the TMJ to improve blood flow. Increased blood flow to the afflicted areas aids in pain relief. Your dentist would recommend mild laser or low-level therapy as well. This therapy is beneficial in reducing pain and inflammation. It also makes it possible for you to move your neck freely and open your mouth wider with ease.

  1. Biobehavioral managementsuch as cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback—could be able to reduce the severity of TMD discomfort.
  1. AcupunctureTrigger-point treatment with acupuncture has helped some people with TMD.
  1. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulations (TENS)

If none of the above-mentioned drugs work, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation could be administered. Electrical currents would be applied to the affected area at low levels to provide relief from pain by inducing relaxation of facial and jaw muscles. Treatment could take place at a dentist's clinic or at home.

  1. Medication in Higher Doses

In addition to anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications, a dentist would advise you to take higher doses of prescription drugs such as NSAIDS to assist you with dealing with TMJ problems. The medication will help alleviate pain and inflammation while also relaxing your muscles. TMD can sometimes be caused by stress. When a patient is anxious or stressed, he or she is more likely to grind their teeth.

The dentist would refer the patient to a mental health professional who would likely prescribe anti-anxiety medication. Anti-anxiety drugs will aid in reducing stress, which will help in the rehabilitation process. Low-dose anti-anxiety drugs could also help relieve pain. You shouldn't purchase antidepressant, anti-anxiety, or muscle relaxant medications unless you have a legitimate prescription from a medical professional. It's worth noting that these drugs are only accessible with a valid prescription.

Surgery as a TMD Treatment

TMD at its advanced stage could be difficult to treat with the above-mentioned home treatments and medical treatments. As a result, your dentist could propose surgery to permanently resolve the issue. It's important to remember that once the surgery is performed, it cannot be reversed. Therefore, it's essential to think it over and seek counsel from an experienced dentist before proceeding. TMD patients could have one of three types of surgery, depending on the severity of their issue:

  • Arthrocentesis

This would be considered if a patient doesn't have any major history of TMD yet his or her jaws are locked. The surgery is minor and could be performed in the dentist's office or clinic. Before the operation begins, you will be given general anesthesia, and needles will be put into the afflicted joint to unstick or wash it out.

  • Open-joint Surgery

This operation is required when the dentist suspects that the patient has lumps around or on the affected joint, or if a patient's bone structures in the jaw joint are deteriorating. After administering general anesthesia, your dentist would cut open the entire region surrounding the afflicted joint to gain a better view and access to the underlying problem. An open-joint surgery would require more time to heal. With this surgical procedure, there's a high likelihood of nerve damage and scarring.

  • Arthroscopy

This procedure involves the use of an arthroscope, which is a one-of-a-kind tool that features a lens and a torch. The instrument allows the dentist to view the joint to determine and diagnose the source of the problem. Before the surgery begins, you will be given general anesthesia, and your dentist will make a little incision in the front of the ear where the arthroscope will be implanted.

He or she will connect the instrument to a video monitor so he/she can assess the status of the TMJ and the surrounding areas. If the joint has inflammatory tissue, the surgeon would remove it and reposition the discs or joint. This procedure is less invasive, leaving only a little scar and with fewer risks. You'll recover quickly from the procedure. Normally, the recovery period is substantially shorter than that of the main operation.

Find a General Dentist Near Me

Any issue with the teeth, jaws, gums or the mouth itself would make it difficult for the mouth to execute all of its duties. For example, a problem with your TMJ would make it difficult for you to speak, eat, or even enjoy your life. We The Whittier Dentist have an exceptional team of experienced dentists in Whittier, CA that can assess and suggest the best remedy for your TMD or any other dental procedure. Call us today at 562-632-1223 and let us restore your smile.