TMJ Treatment in Alexandria, VA
Do you experience pain or clicking noises when you open and close your mouth? How about jaw tightness and locking? If so, you might need TMJ treatment.
Dr. Kathleen Mullaney, DDS, provides TMJ treatment in Alexandria, VA. Find out how we diagnose and treat TMJ disorders here.
What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)?
Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your upper and lower jawbones. It’s located on both sides of the head and allows you to open and close your mouth.
TMJ disorder, also called TMD, occurs when the muscles and nerves surrounding the temporomandibular joint experience inflammation, resulting in severe pain in the face, jaw, neck, and even shoulders. Symptoms of TMD usually range from mild to severe.
TMD typically causes severe jaw pain and discomfort, though you might also experience tightness or locking of the jaw. If left untreated, symptoms of TMD can also include:
- Severe headaches or migraines
- Pain in the neck, face, and shoulders
- Swelling on both sides of the face
- Difficulty chewing or opening and closing the mouth
- Ringing in the ears
While you might experience one or several symptoms, you should seek TMJ treatment as soon as possible to avoid complications. Our Alexandria dentist can diagnose your symptoms and prescribe a treatment plan.
What Causes TMJ Pain?
There isn’t a single cause of TMJ disorder. However, several factors can trigger the condition, including but not limited to the following:
- Overuse of the jaw
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Severe facial trauma
- Misaligned bite
- Tooth loss
How Long Does TMJ Pain Last?
In most cases, it depends on the severity of the underlying condition. Some TMD symptoms last anywhere from a few days to weeks. However, if teeth grinding or arthritis causes your TMJ pain, it could last for months or years. Fortunately, treatment and proper care should help relieve your symptoms.
Types of TMJ Disorders
There are three types of TMJ disorders including:
- Muscle disorders – Repeated grinding and clenching cause most muscle disorders. Symptoms usually extend from the muscles around the jaw. Muscle disorders are the most common type of TMD.
- Degenerative joint disorders – For most, degenerative disc disorder results from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or a perforated TMJ disc. Other causes include misaligned bites and jaw overuse.
- Internal derangement disorders – Internal derangement means a structural deformity of the jaw. Displaced TMJ discs, severe facial trauma, and jaw dislocation can all result in this type of TMD. Risk factors might also include grinding, clenching, or jaw overuse.
You can experience one or more of these disorders at the same time.
Our dentist, Dr. Mullaney, will ask about your medical history and perform an oral exam to diagnose your TMD. She’ll assess for pain and tenderness and may recommend x-rays to rule out other dental problems. Dr. Mullaney will work closely with you to determine which type of TMJ disorder you have and how to treat it.
In some cases, TMD goes away on its own. However, you have several treatment options if symptoms persist. To start, Dr. Mullaney may recommend a combination of at-home practices, including:
- Avoid clenching or tensing your jaw (no chewing gum, wide-mouthed yawns, etc.)
- Try a soft food diet
- Use heat or ice to reduce swelling
- Reduce stress
- Opt for over-the-counter medication
If symptoms don’t improve with the treatments above, Dr. Mullaney may then prescribe the following:
- Mouthguards to prevent teeth grinding
- Prescription medication to relax the jaw muscles
- Physical therapy
TMJ surgery is generally only an option if other conservative treatments fail to reduce symptoms. It’s better to try safe, non-invasive therapies first before turning to surgery.
TMJ Therapy in Alexandria, VA
Dr. Kathleen Mullaney, DDS, offers TMJ treatment as part of our restorative dentistry services in Omaha, NE.
If you think you have TMD and would like a second opinion, call 240-532-3335 or contact us today to schedule an appointment. With over 25 years of experience, we proudly serve patients in Old Town, VA, and the surrounding areas.