When your jaw is unable to open and close with ease, everyday tasks like speaking, chewing, and swallowing can become difficult and even painful. The doctors at Aviara Center, who have undergone advanced dental training, employ state-of-the-art technology to relieve TMJ & craniofacial pain. Most patients find long-lasting relief from TMJ pain without the need for undergoing surgery.
Is temporomandibular joint disorder the cause of my jaw pain?
The Temporo-mandibular Joint (TMJ) complex consists of the temporal bone (one of the cranial bones), the mandibular bone (the lower jaw), the temporomandibular disc, and the surrounding tendons and muscles that connect the mandible to the temporal bone. The health of this complex is crucial to speech, chewing, jaw movement, neuromuscular function, and our overall health. When the balance of this intricate system breaks down, jaw or craniofacial pain and dysfunction results and a diagnosis of TMJ Disorder (TMD) is made.
There are multiple reasons that this sensitive area can fall out of alignment. Injury, arthritis, malocclusion, bruxism, and genetic factors are some of the more common causes. However, recent findings suggest that the main cause of TMJ pain is compromised airway. Only a qualified doctor can properly diagnose your symptoms as TMJ-related. You may want to consider scheduling an appointment with one of our doctors if you regularly experience:
- Jaw pain on either or both of your TMJs
- Pain that radiates from your jaw to nearby structures like the ear or neck
- Numbness or tingling in your arm or finger(s)
- Difficulty chewing or discomfort when eating
- Difficulty fully opening your jaws
- A clicking sound when opening your mouth
- Migraine or temporal headaches
- Fatigue or daytime drowsiness
- Snoring or sleep disturbances
During your visit to Aviara Center, one of our doctors will listen carefully while you describe your symptoms. Advanced images may be taken as part of your examination.
Treatment Options for TMJ Pain
The doctors at Aviara Center bring advanced training that goes beyond what general dentistry can offer when treating complex problems like TMJ disorder. Dr. Katherine Ahn Wallace (Dr. Ahn) has extensive training and clinical experience in TMJ disorder, craniofacial pain, sleep apnea, and orthodontics. She stays up to date on the latest developments in dental treatments and technology.
One common cause of TMJ pain is malocclusion. Crooked and misaligned teeth can cause the jaws to close improperly, which can lead to TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) in some individuals. During your exam, one of our doctors will use advanced imaging, joint vibration analysis (JVA), and digital bite analysis (T-Scan) to determine if poor teeth alignment is one of the factors contributing to your TMJ symptoms.
They may also use a CBCT (low-radiation CT), Pharyngometer, Rhinometer, and a Home Sleep Test to confirm if the compromised airway is the main source of your TMJ Disorder. Dr. Ahn and her team offer state-of-the-art TMD treatment using TMJ splint therapy, sleep apnea therapy, and orthopedic jaw remodeling using special appliances.
Once the symptoms have subsided and the joint inflammation is healed, the treatment is completed by aligning the teeth in the newly established jaw position using traditional braces or clear aligner therapy (ie Invisalign, Encore Align). Note: In severe cases, oral surgery may be performed as part of the treatment for optimal healing and correction.
Custom mouthguards or splints allow your jaw and TMJ to decompress, heal, and stabilize during the day while relaxing in an airway-optimal position while you sleep at night. Since many TMJ symptoms result from nighttime teeth grinding usually associated with a compromised airway, this non-invasive treatment can offer relief from TMJ pain.
Certain medications, lasers, cranio-sacral physical therapy, osteopathic therapy, myofunctional therapy, improved sleep hygiene, breathing retraining, and frenectomy can also assist in relieving TMJ pain. Your doctor will prescribe treatments that are both conservative and effective.
Patients can play a proactive role in managing their TMJ symptoms. It is important to understand the actions and habits that trigger TMJ pain. These actions may include biting hard objects or chewing food on one side of your mouth instead of evenly on both sides. Many patients are unaware that their jaw muscles clench throughout the day.
Mindfully relaxing the muscles that control your jaws and managing your breathing can also help relieve stress on the joints. If certain factors in your life are causing stress, counseling or other forms of therapy may help relieve some of your TMJ-related symptoms.
Schedule Your TMJ Treatment Today
The doctors at Aviara Center will look at your TMJ symptoms holistically while providing a range of treatment options and advice on which habits can relieve TMJ pain. To schedule your next visit, please contact our office at (714) 786-1364.