TMJ Treatment | Westminster MA

TMJ Disorders

TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a “clicking” sound, you’ll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. These symptoms occur when muscles do not work together properly. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the name for each joint (right and left) that connects your jaw to your skull. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important.

No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and treatment takes time to become effective. Dr. Palermo can help you have a healthier and more comfortable jaw.

Trouble with your Jaw?

TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM Joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch and tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, or grating noise when you open your mouth, your moth locking either open or closed, or trouble opening your mouth wide.

Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?

  • Are You aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
  • Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
  • Do you have frequent headaches or neck-aches?
  • Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
  • Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
  • Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
  • Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat or yawn?
  • Have you ever injured your neck, head or jaws?
  • Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
  • Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
  • Is it hard to use front teeth to bite or tear food?
  • Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?

The more times you answered “yes”, the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they are treated.

Treatment

There are various treatment options that Dr. Palermo can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, Dr. Palermo will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to not that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care combined with professional care.

The initial goals are to relieve the muscle spasms and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxant. Steroids can be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:

  1. Resting your jaw
  2. Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
  3. Eating soft foods
  4. Applying ice and heat to the joint area
  5. Exercising your jaw
  6. Practicing proper posture

Stress management techniques such as biofeedback or physical therapy may also be recommended. A clear plastic appliance known as a splint will be fabricated. A splint (or night guard) fits over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep your teeth apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different appliances used for different purposes. A nightguard helps you stop clenching and grinding your teeth and reduces muscle tension at night. It also helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. Other types of appliances such as anterior splints may be recommended. All these also help to protect from tooth wear.

If your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit together you may need treatment such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction, or restorative dental work to correct your bite. Also in severe cases surgical options, such as arthroscopy and open joint repair, may be needed. Dr. Palermo can recommend which treatment is right for you.