The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a complex structure, comprised of a number of components that must work together properly in order to facilitate the jaw’s movement in multiple planes. When there is a problem with the muscles, tendons or bones that make up the jaw, a painful TMJ disorder can occur. In general, patients who develop a TMJ disorder will need to seek some sort of treatment in order to get relief from their symptoms, which may also include clicking, locking or popping of the jaw, as well as general facial or ear pain.
An oral surgeon has extensive training in the structures and function of the jaw, so patients who are experiencing TMJ problems can consult with this type of specialist to get a diagnosis and explore interventions to address the problem.
Although an oral surgeon may be involved in diagnosing and treating TMJ disorder, the recommended treatment may not involve a surgical procedure. TMJ treatments usually begin conservatively, with approaches such as physical therapy or massage. Stress can make TMJ symptoms worse, so patients may see some improvement with stress management techniques.
Bruxism – teeth grinding – can also contribute to TMJ disorders and cause jaw pain because of the additional strain it causes in the jaw, so patients who have this issue may respond well if they wear a custom-designed mouthguard to prevent teeth grinding while asleep. A surgeon can determine the specifications for that mouthguard.
When patients’ symptoms do not improve with the less invasive treatments, a surgical procedure may be recommended. If the surgeon identifies a structural defect in the jaw that appears to be causing the TMJ disorder, that may require surgery to repair or correct it as well.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a TMJ disorder, it is unlikely that those symptoms will go away without some sort of treatment. We encourage you to contact our office to schedule an evaluation at our office to determine what the specific issue is and learn about treatment options.