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Is it hard to chew certain foods without pain? Do you hear a popping sound or clicking when you’re chewing gum, eating, or even talking? Do you have chronic headaches or pain in your jaw that comes and goes? These can be worrisome problems, and if you’re experiencing them on a regular basis, you may have problems with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the muscles that control it.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the top part of your jaw to the lower half of your jaw and your skull. The TMJs are actually joints that allow your mouth to open and close, working together in a hinge fashion. This is one of the most active joints in your body, and as such, may wear down, causing it to develop problems over time. Or, sometimes a sports or other type of injury can cause your jaw to be knocked out of alignment. This can cause severe TMJ problems that often need the assistance of a talented head and neck surgeon to treat or correct.
If you’re concerned that you have issues with your TMJ and the muscles surrounding it, the talented team of medical professionals at NextGen OMS, head and neck surgeons in Frisco, TX, can help!
What Is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the pair of joints that connect the mandible, or lower jaw, to the upper jaw and the skull. The bones are connected through a complicated structure of ligaments, tendons, and muscles that both support the lower jaw and ensure that it moves smoothly as needed. The jaw moves up and down, as well as side to side, and this hardworking joint can easily get just a little off-center and begin causing pain when eating, talking, and moving in general. A head and neck surgeon can help answer any questions you may have about TMJ disorder.
The Basics of TMJ Disorders
Like every joint in your body, the TMJs are also subject to wear and tear, or certain types of diseases that can cause them to function improperly. Diseases, injuries, and chronic conditions of the TMJs are considered TMJ Disorders by specialists.
There are a few underlying conditions that can contribute to TMJ disorders, including dysfunction in the facial muscles, ligaments, and the jaw joints themselves, or an injury to the jaw, including dislocation from sports or an accident. Or, people who suffer from certain forms of arthritis, including degenerative or inflammatory forms of arthritis, may end up with complications in the TMJs and jaw.
Discomfort and soreness in the TMJ may occur due to one or all of these issues. Because of this, and because symptoms can vary from individual to individual, diagnosing complications and issues with the joints can be difficult. Especially since symptoms can flare up and subside over time.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
TMJ issues can involve either one side or both sides of the jaw. Usually, if there are troubles with just one side of the jaw, it’s because of an injury. Both sides may indicate chronic health conditions.
Symptoms of TMJ include:
- Popping, clicking, or the feeling of bone grinding on the bone when the jaw moves
- Pain and stiffness in the face, especially around the jawline
- Migraine headaches, or headaches that center around the front of the face
- Earaches and ear pain
- The discomfort that travels down into the neck
- Changes in the way that your bite fits together, such as being out of alignment (this is called malocclusion)
- Lockjaw – difficulty opening or closing the mouth. Severe cases can include the jaw locking completely, which need immediate medical attention
Pain from TMJ disorder can start out mild and increase throughout the day. Over time, the chronic pain from TMJ can increase until it’s constant from morning to night. However, there are treatments available for TMJ disorder, including lifestyle changes or medical intervention by a head and neck surgeon.
You don’t have to live with the aching pain or fear of “lockjaw” when it comes to TMJ disorders. Changing what you eat, quitting chewing gum, or consulting with a head and neck surgeon can help!
How Can a Head and Neck Surgeon Help Your TMJ Discomfort?
The head and neck surgeon team at NextGen OMS tailors the TMJ treatments according to each of our patients. We carefully look over both sides of your jaw and explore the history of your pain and discomfort. We believe in holistic healing of the jaw, and will work with you, moving from the least invasive treatments possible to more aggressive treatments including surgery.
Some of the most common treatments we recommend, from easiest to more complicated, include:
- Eating soft foods to help rest the jaw and relax tense muscles or tight ligaments
- Not chewing gum or playing certain kinds of musical instruments
- Physical therapy, both in a therapist’s office and at-home exercises to help improve the flexibility and jaw muscle strength
- Anti-inflammatory medications, both oral and topical
- Oral splints or their oral apparatuses that can be worn during sleep to help realign the jaw and improve its function
- Injections at the connection of the joints to reduce swelling and inflammation
If these techniques don’t work, or if your condition doesn’t improve, then a head and neck surgeon can explore having minimally invasive joint repair surgery. This is an intricate procedure that can help realign the jaw and improve its functionality, plus reduce the pain and symptoms of TMJ disorder.
Schedule Your Appointment Today!
At NextGen OMS, we’re a head and neck surgeon in Frisco, TX, capable of performing reconstructive surgery, as well as routine procedures on your jaw, head, and neck. We can help you live a healthier, pain-free life and improve the symptoms of chronic health conditions, including TMJ disorders. Visit us online for more details about our procedures or give us a call to schedule your personal consultation. We can’t wait to work with you!