Temporomandibular joint disorders, more commonly referred to as TMJ, are widely recognized but also widely misunderstood. Most patients probably have a vague understanding of the disorder tied to its symptoms: clicking or popping noises while eating, jaw pain, or significantly reduced jaw mobility. However, TMJ is much more complicated. And if you’re among the estimated 10 million Americans affected by the disorder, better understanding your condition could allow you to take better care of yourself.
What Is TMJ?
The short answer to the question is that medical professionals haven’t all agreed what, exactly, TMJ is, which is precisely what makes the disorder so difficult to diagnose and treat. There are at least three different kinds of disorders affecting the temporomandibular joint, which is a complex joint, allowing your jaw to move back and forth while speaking and chewing, but TMJ is generally used as an umbrella term. Symptoms can vary between patients and so can the initial cause of the disorder.
For some patients, jaw pain is their only symptom. Others can experience frequent headaches, pain in the back, neck, or shoulders, and some even develop tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Even stranger are symptoms, such as numbness or tingling in the fingers, which may be caused by a shift in the body’s equilibrium due to jaw misalignment.
Can TMJ Be Cured?
Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for TMJ. While symptoms can go into remission for several years, they can turn up again after trauma caused by conditions like bruxism or even after a car accident. In this way, TMJ is similar to a torn ligament or broken bone. The body can heal a broken leg or ligament, but that ligament will be more susceptible to damage in the future. That being said, several treatments are currently being developing using some pretty cool science. Some involving injecting stem cells directly into the joint.
TMJ Is Treatable
If your TMJ has been causing you significant pain, those symptoms aren’t something you have to live with. While TMJ isn’t yet one hundred percent curable, patients can significantly reduce the severity of their symptoms by seeking treatment through a neuromuscular dentist.
The first step is getting a diagnosis through a consultation. Mark down the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, the frequency and severity of those symptoms, and then schedule an appointment with a neuromuscular dentist. After your consultation, your dentist may suggest several treatments that have been known to benefit TMJ sufferers.
One of the most common forms of treatment involves wearing a custom-crafted mouth splint to avoid teeth grinding, and to correctly position your jaw and allow the healing process to begin.
If you would like to learn whether TMJ is responsible for your symptoms, please call (914) 332-4402 or email us to schedule a consultation with a Tarrytown TMJ dentist at Advanced Dentistry of Tarrytown.