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When a patient has a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, this can affect every area of their life. The TMJ functions like a sliding hinge, which connects the jawbone to the skull and there is one joint on each side of the jaw. When TMJ disorder manifests, it can cause the patient to feel pain in both the jaw joint and in the muscles controlling the jaw’s movement.

Your patient may come to you with pain or tenderness in the jaw area, including one or both of the temporomandibular joints. There may be an ache around the ear or facial pain, or they may have pain or trouble chewing, especially if the jaw joint locks so that they struggle to open or close their mouth. Other symptoms may include clicking noises when opening the mouth, or a grating feeling when they chew.

Diagnosing the cause of TMJ can be difficult because there can be a combination of contributors, including genetics, arthritis,  trauma to the jaw, clenching the jaw, or grinding the teeth when stressed.

Untreated TMJ/TMD can result in chipped or fractured molars and premolars. Over time this can lead to bigger areas of decay and cavities, and a host of other issues including inflammation in the jaw.

Treating TMJ pain usually includes self-care measures before turning to surgery. For some patients, the disorder may even resolve itself without intervention. But when treatment is necessary, you may need to recommend several treatment options implemented at the same time.

Common treatment options might involve:

-Counseling can help the patient learn what behaviors are causing the pain so they can be mindfully avoided. Being aware of clenching the jaw, grinding the teeth, biting the fingernails, can all exacerbate jaw pain.

-Prescribing medication (either over the counter or prescription) such as muscle relaxants or tricyclic antidepressants can relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

-Occlusal appliances such as mouth guards can be worn over the teeth.

-Physical therapy measures such with moist heat and ice packs or ultrasound can treat symptoms and exercises to stretch the jaw muscles can make them stronger.

-Arthrocentesis, where small needles are placed into the jaw joint to draw fluid through the joint, can clear out debris and byproducts that lead to inflammation.

-BOTOX injections into the jaw muscles can reduce inflammation and pain.

-TMJ arthroscopic surgery, inserting a cannula into the joint space.

-Modified condylotomy, a surgery done on the jaw mandible can the pain treat locking of the jaw.

-Arthrotomy, an open joint surgery can fix or replace the joint.

If you are an oral health care provider, the training programs developed by Dr. Jason Campbell here at the Advanced Prosthetics Institute can help you identify the underlying cause of your patient’s TMJ disorder and provide them with an effective treatment strategy for long-term relief. The training you will receive include lifestyle modification, medications and other Biofunctional measures. Please give us a call at 928-776-0239 to learn more about our intensive training in Prescott, Arizona.