Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are also trained to diagnose and treat facial pain. A common cause of facial pain and headache is disease or dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Located where the lower jaw and skull meet, the TMJ is a ball-and-socket joint that enables the lower jaw (mandible) to move and function. TMJ disorders display a number of symptoms that may include earaches, headaches, and a limited range of movement. Patients may also complain of clicking or grating sounds in the joint, or pain when opening or closing their mouths.
Stress may trigger pain in the jaw muscles that is very similar to that caused by TMJ problems. Affected patients frequently clench or grind their teeth at night causing painful spasms in the muscles and difficulty in moving the jaw. Patients may also experience a combination of muscle and joint problems. That is why diagnosing TMJ disorders can be complex and may require different diagnostic procedures.
Causes of TMJ disorders can be degenerative (osteoarthritis), traumatic (cartilage displacement or injury), inflammatory (rheumatoid arthritis), or stress related. Some patients experience a combination of muscle and joint problems. In order to properly diagnose and treat the problem, Dr. Meyers conducts a thorough clinical examination (often taking up to an hour to complete) and utilizes a number of diagnostic procedures, including imaging studies (radiograph, CT, MRI). Since many other conditions such as impacted teeth, toothaches, salivary gland problems and migraine-like headaches can mimic TMD problems, a comprehensive evaluation usually is needed to diagnose all conditions which are present.
No single treatment modality can resolve TMJ disorders completely, and treatment often takes time to be effective. Usually, TMJ treatment may range from conservative dental and medical care to complex surgery. Usually, non-surgical management (soft diet, anti-inflammatory drugs for pain and muscle relaxation, physical bite splint therapy and even stress management counseling) is the first step. For certain conditions, joint surgery may be an appropriate option. Fortunately, few patients usually require surgery. In every case, Dr. Meyers will do his best to help you have a healthier and more comfortable jaw.
For some TMJ pain and dysfunction, if non-surgical treatment is unsuccessful or if there is clear joint damage, lysis and lavage and arthroscopic joint surgery (the method identical to the orthopedic procedures used to inspect and treat larger joints such as the knee) can be used. These are minimally invasive procedures that have proven effective in resolving certain conditions. These procedures can be done under general anesthesia on an outpatient-surgery basis at a hospital or ambulatory surgery center. More complex joint surgery may be indicated for advanced conditions.
Once TMJ disorders are correctly diagnosed, appropriate treatment can be provided.
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. Or, you may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury, disease or an imperfect bite. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking or grating noises when you open your mouth, or trouble opening your mouth widely.
- 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 you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
- Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
- Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
- Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?
The more times you answered “yes,” the more likely the possibility that you may have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they’re treated.
There are various treatment options that Dr. Meyers can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMD/TMJ disorder, Dr. Meyers will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care as well as professional care.