What is TMJ?

tmj headache treatment charlotte nc dentistYou may have heard someone complain, “I have TMJ.” What they mean is that they are suffering from a TMJ disorder. Your temporomandibular joints, called TMJ, are the part of your skull that make it possible to open and close your mouth. Your TMJ are located on either side of your skull and work together in tandem when you chew, speak or swallow. The TMJ include the associated muscles and ligaments as well as the jaw bone itself. They also control the lower jaw, called the mandible, as it moves forward, backward and side to side.

Each TMJ has a disc of spongy tissue — called cartilage — between the ball and socket of the joint. This cartilage supports the load of the jaw while enabling it to open wide and rotate or glide. Any issue that interferes with this complicated system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones can be called a TMJ disorder. Dentist like Dr. Richard VanGurp of VanGurp Dentistry in Charlotte NC can diagnose and treat this problem to alleviate the discomfort of stop the progression of dental issues that TMJ disorders can bring on.

What Causes TMJ Disorders (TMD)?

Possible causes of TMJ disorders include:

  • Arthritis
  • Dislocation
  • Injury
  • Misalignment of jaw and teeth
  • Teeth grinding due to stress

How is TMJ Diagnosed?

Before treatment can begin, a dentist must examine you to diagnose the condition. A typical dental examination will usually include checking the joints and muscles of the jaw for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving.

Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, Dr. VanGurp may refer you to a physician or a dental specialist for more advanced treatment.

How is TMJ Treated?

For basic cases, TMJ disorders are treated with lifestyle changes. This step-by-step plan presents simple changes you can make moving on to more involved treatment. These steps advocate for a “less is more” approach in treating TMJ disorders, which includes:

  • Eating softer foods
  • Avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
  • Applying heat packs to the pain
  • Alleviate tension by utilizing relaxation techniques to alleviate tension, including meditation or biofeedback.

If your symptoms are more severe, the following treatments may be recommended by Dr. VanGurp:

  • Mouth exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles
  • Medications prescribed by your dentist; such as muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-inflammatories
  • Anxiety medications to alleviate tension and tooth grinding
  • A mouth guard or bite plate to reduce clenching or grinding of teeth.

In some cases, your dentist may recommend orthodontic treatment to correct an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping some teeth. Dr. VanGurp can suggest the most appropriate therapy based on the determined cause.  If you are in the Charlotte NC area and think you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, any other dental ailment or just need a cleaning or consultation, please call (704) 209-9606 to schedule with VanGurp Dentistry schedule with us online.