TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders occur due to problems with the jaw, jaw joint (or TMJ), and surrounding facial muscles. TMJ disorders can cause pain in your jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement.
At Advanced Dentistry of Kearney, Dr. Reece has extensive experience diagnosing and treating TMJ disorders.
It is often challenging to determine TMJ disorders’ exact cause, as your pain may be due to a combination of factors, such as genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury. Furthermore, jaw pain may be associated with clenching or grinding your teeth (bruxism), whether you have a TMJ disorder or not.
Painful TMJ disorders can, however, occur when the small shock-absorbing disk, which normally keeps jaw movement smooth, begins to erode or moves out of its proper alignment. The joint can also be damaged by arthritis or damaged by a blow or other impact.
If you do have a TMJ disorder, typical symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
During your consultation, Dr. Reece will ask you about your medical history and examine your jaw. She will
- Listen to and feel your jaw when you open and close your mouth.
- Observe the range of motion in your jaw.
- Press on areas around your jaw to identify sites of pain or discomfort.
If Dr. Reece suspects a problem, she will
- Order a 3D Cone-Beam CT to provide images of the teeth, jaw, and bones involved in the joint.
- Order an MRI to reveal a problem with the joint’s disk or surrounding soft tissue.
Fortunately, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders are temporary and can be alleviated with self-managed care and non-surgical treatments. If conservative measures fail, however, surgical treatments are available.
At Advanced Dentistry of Kearney, Dr. Reece offers patients conservative TMJ treatment.
Splint Therapy. Dr. Reece can fabricate an occlusal mouth guard, bite plate, or another type of oral apparatus to help resolve TMJ pain and discomfort. Splints can be either hard or soft and cover a few teeth or all of them.
There are two types of splints:
Stabilization Splints. These splints cover all of the teeth and are typically just worn at night. The splints allow jaw muscles and ligaments to relax, and when worn prevent the occurrence of teeth grinding, clenching, or other jaw reactions that may trigger TMJ pain and discomfort. These splints can also prevent other negative side effects of bruxism, such as teeth becoming worn down or cracked.
Repositioning Splints. These splints are prescribed to wear all day, every day, and are designed to correct bite occlusions. If you have an overbite or underbite, these conditions may put added pressure on the jaw and cause TMJ pain and discomfort. The splints can help angle your bite into a more optimal position, which can alleviate the tension in the jaw.
For some patients, splint therapy permanently resolves symptoms of TMJ disorders. For others, additional TMJ treatment may be required that may include dental work to make their ideal bite permanent.
Dental Work. Dr. Reece may recommend that you have dental work to balance the biting surfaces of your teeth or to correct a bite problem. This may involve restorative dental work, including crowns and bridges. Dr. Reece will discuss options with you during your consultation.
If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of a TMJ disorder, call Advanced Dentistry of Kearney at (308) 237-1311 to schedule a consult with Dr. Reece. She will conduct a thorough examination to confirm the diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan.