TMJ is an acronym for the temporomandibular joint, which is a hinge that connects your jaw to the bones in front of each ear – the temporal bones of your skull. This is where temporomandibular disorder (TMD) can occur and result in discomfort, dysfunction, and pain in the joints and muscles that make up the jaw and control its movement. For most, jaw pain does not indicate a serious condition and the pain they experience is temporary and occasional. For some, however, substantial long-term symptoms may develop and cause more than just infrequent irritation.
We will listen to and feel your jaw while you open and close your mouth, observe the motion range of your jaw, and press on areas of your jaw to identify spots of discomfort or pain. If we suspect any problems, an x-ray can help reveal potential issues with joint discs, and additional equipment can detect muscular abnormalities and diagnose muscles that are becoming strained. We use EMG (electromyography) readings to determine unstable positioning and also to show us where your jaw is going to be most comfortable.
As there are still many factors of TMJ disorders that are unknown, we may try to offer more conservative treatments for your pain or discomfort. Self-care or at-home practices such as eating soft foods, avoiding extreme jaw movements (wide yawning, gum chewing, loud singing), learning relaxing and stress-reducing techniques, applying ice packs, and practicing gentle jaw stretching and exercises will be some of the first treatment options we encourage.
Short-term use of over-the-counter pain medications or anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen is something we might recommend to provide temporary assistance from jaw discomfort. Stronger medicines, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and anti-depressants are also an option, but these medications are something the team and Dr. Lawlor will need to discuss with you prior to prescribing.
The most recommended option for TMD treatment is an oral appliance called an Orthotic or stabilization splint. This is a plastic guard that fits over the lower teeth and balances your bite. One of the main causes of jaw pain is an imbalanced bite, this is also the easiest to correct. Once your bite is balanced (so that all teeth are contacting at the same time), joint pressure is equalized and the jaw feels more relaxed. Some patients are able to wear the Orthotic part-time, and some patients will need to progress to a fixed or permanent Orthotic. If an Orthotic increases your pain or affects the way you bite, you should contact your dentist right away.
We would be happy to schedule your appointment with Dr. Lawlor who has completed advanced training on Orthotics and TMJ therapy and has trained his team on the latest and most advanced TMJ equipment available.
Dr. Lawlor belongs to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists and has been specifically trained in cosmetic dentistry. The American Dental Association does not issue special certifications or licenses indicating which dentists are cosmetic dentists and which are not. The dentist you go to for twice-yearly check-ups is probably not going to be the same dentist you go to for cosmetic enhancement. Unless you’re in the qualified hands of Dr. Lawlor!
We bill all dental insurances and accept credit cards or CareCredit as forms of payments. If your treatment plan is more extensive, we’ll work with you to find a pay schedule that’s comfortable for your circumstances. Any questions? We’re here to help!
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