How TMJ Disorder Left Untreated May Become Acute or Chronic
If you’ve noticed a pain in your jaw or the side of your face, or if you have been experiencing frequent headaches, you could be dealing with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
This pain arises from the joint that allows your jaw to open and close, along with the surrounding muscles. Many cases of TMJ disorder can become worse over time if left untreated, so it’s best to reach out to a dentist about these issues if you notice them.
Discussing TMJ Disorder With Your Dentist
Because there are many causes of jaw pain, including those unrelated to TMJ disorders, discussing your jaw pain with your dentist should be your first step in addressing the issue. If your dentist does determine that a TMJ problem is present, there are at least 30 potential conditions that could be the source of the problem.
In many cases, it’s the soft tissue and muscles around the joint that are being affected. Inflammation, soreness, and TMJ headaches can arise from excess tension and stress in these muscles.
The joint itself can also degenerate, which can cause significant pain and also affect your ability to open and close your jaw. Like any other joint, the TMJ can become dislocated, causing pain and impeding function.
The only way to know for sure what’s behind the pain you’re experiencing is to have a dentist carry out an evaluation.
Potential Causes of TMJ Disorder
Several potential underlying causes can contribute to TMJ disorders. In cases where solely the muscles and soft tissue are being affected, stress could be the main contributing factor. Carrying stress for long periods of time can lead to individuals tensing the muscles around the TMJ excessively, causing inflammation and pain over time.
There are also various health conditions that can lead to TMJ issues, such as arthritis, which can affect the TMJ like any other joint. The joint can also be physically damaged by dental trauma or injury.
Often, there is an underlying dental issue causing a TMJ disorder. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can contribute to TMJ disorders, as can a variety of misalignments that cause the jaw to sit in uncomfortable positions.
The Risks of Untreated TMJ Disorder
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of TMJ disorder, then it’s important to seek out help from your dentist. The underlying issues that trigger TMJ disorder can cause the condition to become worse over time, potentially leading to acute and chronic pain.
When the bones, cartilage, or discs are affected, untreated TMJ disorder can eventually hinder your ability to eat and speak. Whether through arthritis or injury, the condition can continue to worsen to the point that treatment may not be possible. Continuous wear can permanently damage the bone.
TMJ disorders caused by underlying dental issues are important to treat as well. The grinding or misalignment causing TMJ pain is also likely to increase the risk of other issues, like tooth decay or gum disease. Seeking treatment as soon as you start experiencing symptoms is the best decision for your long-term oral health.
TMJ Treatment Options
When you decide to reach out to your dentist about your TMJ disorder symptoms, they’ll carry out an evaluation to examine what the underlying cause may be. The underlying cause will determine which of the many TMJ treatment options could be suitable for your case.
If your TMJ pain seems to be due to muscular tension, then the dentist may recommend a variety of methods for reducing stress. There are many options that could be right for you, and it could be as simple as practicing some easy relaxation techniques. Specific TMJ exercises can also help.
For initial relief from the pain, your dentist may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers, specifically nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen. In other cases, it may be appropriate to prescribe muscle relaxants to relax the jaw muscles.
If grinding seems to be contributing to your TMJ disorder, then your dentist may provide a dental splint or night guard to prevent grinding during sleep. This is a custom appliance that sits between your upper and lower teeth to stop the forceful grinding that is causing TMJ pain and also wearing down your teeth.
If arthritis or physical damage to the joint is found, surgery could be the most effective option. There are a variety of surgical interventions that can provide results, depending on the specifics of your case.
Don’t hesitate to act on TMJ disorder.
Untreated TMJ disorders can steadily worsen over time. To achieve the best outcome for your case, seek out an evaluation from a skilled TMJ specialist as soon as possible. Schedule an appointment at Laurel Manor Dental to get the care you need to address your TMJ pain today.