What you need to know about TMJ

Temporomandibular joint disorder, better known as TMJ, affects people of all ages. It causes pain in the temporomandibular joint where the lower jawbone meets the skull, and the discomfort it causes can range from mild to severe with required care ranging from self managed to surgical.

If you’re one of the 10 million Americans the American Dental Association says suffers from TMJ, consult with your Los Angeles TMJ specialist for treatment options.

What causes TMJ?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the cause of TMJ can be attributed to different medical and dental issues, but sometimes the cause is indeterminable. Trauma to the joints, arthritis, or even muscle fatigue from grinding the teeth can also contribute to development of TMJ.

What are the symptoms of TMJ?
Pain while chewing is the most common symptom of TMJ disorders. Jaw muscle stiffness, locking of the jaw, clicking or popping in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth or even a change in the alignment of the upper and lower teeth might be indications of TMJ disorders. Further possible symptoms could be aching in or around the ear or headaches.

Who is most likely to develop TMJ?
TMJ disorders are most common among women between the ages of 30 and 50. Birth deformities of the facial bones may affect how the teeth are aligned possibly leading the development of TMJ. Disorders also appear more common in people who have rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or sleep disorders.

What can be done to help the symptoms?
In the short term, the symptoms of TMJ can be greatly reduced or eliminated by eating soft foods, applying ice packs and refraining from wide mouth movements such as deep yawning or gum chewing. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), short-term, over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen may provide relief as well as stabilization splints that do not permanently change the bite.

Permanent treatments such as crown and bridge work, or the grinding down of teeth to affect the bite have proven to actually cause more harm than help according to the NIDCR. Attempts at surgical replacement may cause severe pain and even permanent jaw damage.

Angie's List member Christina Piedlow was told the only way to fix her TMJ-related issues was orthodontic treatment, which she says she was "not mentally prepared for." Highly rated Dr. David Alpan of Los Angeles offered a clear braces treatment that produced results worth smiling about.

"People compliment my smile a lot now, and it really is due to Dr. Alpan and his team," Piedlow says.

For most people that suffer from TMJ, the symptoms will go away on their own. Your Los Angeles dentist can help determine what treatment is best for you. Check Angie’s List to read reviews from members’ recent experiences with more than 2,500 highly rated dentists near you.

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