The temporomandibular joint is the spot where your jaw connects to your skull with a ball and socket hinge cushioned with a washer-like disc to enable smooth motion between the two. Sometimes the joint can become injured or damaged and lead to what can be a painful condition called temporomandibular joint syndrome, or TMJ. Temporomandibular joint pain is felt when the muscles and nerves in the area are aggravated by injury to the joint itself. Pain is specifically felt when one chews and experiences a clicking, cracking, or popping of the jaw. When the condition gets worse, patients may also experience swelling on the side of the face, nerve inflammation, headaches, teeth grinding, ear canal issues, or even dislocation of the joint. TMJ is also called temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD.
General and cosmetic dentist Dr. Frederick Solomon treats patients with TMJ or TMD in New York, NY. At his private practice, Tribeca Smiles, Dr. Solomon may recommend treating your pain with BOTOX® injections into the jaw or the use of an oral appliance therapy.
BOTOX injections can relieve the pain of TMJ or TMD as it is designed to relax muscles. During a treatment session, Dr. Solomon will inject a customized dose of BOTOX into the muscles in the jaw. This type of treatment will require repeat visits to the dentist in order to maintain the effectiveness of the BOTOX.
Dr. Solomon may also recommend using a night guard or an oral appliance therapy to help with jaw clenching, teeth grinding, and TMJ pain. He will make an impression of your teeth and send it off to create a customized mouth guard for you to wear at night or when you need relief.
Nociceptive trigeminal inhibition (NTI) tension suppression system can also provide a relief for patients suffering from headaches, a tense jaw, or a sore neck caused by bruxism (tooth grinding or clenching). This modern device is used to treat bruxism, headaches, and jaw disorders. Each NTI is custom made to fit the patient's mouth and bite.
A candidate for TMJ/TMD treatments is anyone who presents any of the above conditions. Contributing factors you may be dealing with include poor posture in the neck and upper back muscles, everyday stress causing jaw clenching, being a woman 18 – 44 years of age, being a patient with inflammatory arthritis that’s chronic, someone with jaw trauma or poorly positioned teeth, or a genetic predisposition to pain sensitivity and stress. Candidates may also feel pain when pressure is applied to the joint itself or when they chew. Each temporomandibular joint, one on each side of your head, is supposed to work together so you can perform routine mouth functions. Diagnosis is an important step prior to any treatment.
What To Expect
A part of the examination you may receive at Tribeca Smiles will include Dr. Solomon checking your joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping, or misalignment causing difficulty in opening and closing your lower jaw. There are several treatments for TMJ depending on what kind it is, how advanced it is, and your own personal conditions. "Less is more" is a rule of thumb in treating TMJ, so Dr. Solomon will first discuss if you have already tried some best practices such as eating softer foods, avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails, heat packs, and relaxation techniques. If so, he may also advise exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles, medications to relax your muscles, pain relievers, anti-anxiety drugs, or anti-inflammatories.
Most TMJ problems resolve themselves quickly or within a few months. In rare cases, it never fully resolves. In this case, it may be a matter of learning better strategies for pain management. It is important to start with the least invasive treatments and work your way up. For example, just giving your jaw a break can do the trick. Don’t open wide for a few days, cut smaller pieces of food, eat softer foods, etc. Heat, relaxation, exercise, posture, sleep, stress are all things to pay attention to. Dr. Solomon may also recommend bite guards to reduce clenching and grinding of teeth. These can significantly help in jaw alignment and relaxation. More advanced treatments can include occlusal equilibration, orthodontics, or even surgery as a last resort.
Plan Your Procedure
Consult with Dr. Solomon
TMJ is a complex and painful situation. Since there are many possible causes, symptoms, and solutions, it can be confusing trying to determine next steps. Call for a consultation, and Dr. Solomon will be happy to help you diagnose it and then provide much-needed clarity on how to best move forward. With TMJ, it’s all about patience — starting with basic treatments, ruling them out, and working your way up the treatment ladder.