In today’s stressful society, many people suffer from “TMJ.” While most people refer to it as TMJ, actually, the correct term is called “TMD” or “Temporomandibular Disorder.”

What is TMJ?

Everybody has a TMJ, which stands for temporomandibular joint. When things go wrong with this joint or the muscles that surround it, we call it a temporomandibular disorder or TMD. There are many different types of TMD problems, which include the following:

  • popping or clicking
  • limited opening
  • painful opening or closing
  • “lockjaw”
  • muscle spasms
  • strained muscles
  • headaches

Depending on the type of problem you have, Dr. Robert Taylor will educate you regarding your diagnosis and recommend a course of treatment. For most people, time is the best remedy. That is hardly comforting for someone in pain, but it should be comforting to know it will get better. More specifically, our bodies are amazingly adaptive. When our normal joint function is traumatized, disrupted or changed in some way, our bodies begin the adaptive process.

Common Joint and Muscle problems

Most people who experience joint pain will pass through a cycle:

  • acute pain (throbbing or severe pain) usually lasts for a few days to a few weeks
  • mild-to-moderate pain (dull ache) usually lasts for a few weeks to several months
  • no pain (duration varies per patient)

During this cycle, our bodies are remodeling our joints so they can accommodate the changes. Some people will repeat this cycle frequently, while others will only experience it once. As we get older, however, those who experience this cycle of pain will usually see it happen less frequently and less severely. For a small portion of patients, the pain does not remit or get better on its own. Those patients will definitely need orthodontic or surgical intervention.

More good news is that there are some things that can be done to reduce the pain while we are waiting for your body to adapt.

Popping or clicking without pain
A good portion of the population has some type of pop or click in their joint. For most people, it is asymptomatic, meaning it does not hurt. The pop or click is caused by your jawbone “popping” or sliding onto and off of the cartilage that rests in the joint. As long as it is not painful, we will simply monitor the click over time. Most often, it never causes any significant problems.

Popping or clicking with pain
Occasionally, a pop or click is due to a functional shift, which means a person’s bite is off causing the jawbone to shift into a different position. If this is the case, then fixing the person’s bite can help with the click. If the individual can open and close normally without “shifting,” then braces may not be the best option for treating the click. In these cases, the pain is best managed by reducing the stress on the joint through a combination of the following:

  • behavior changes (soft diet and rest)
  • physical prevention (custom night guard properly designed to address the problem)
  • pharmaceuticals (anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants)
  • laser therapy

Muscle Pain / Headaches
People who suffer from jaw pain of muscular origin are usually clenchers or grinders (bruxers). Do not worry; you are not alone. Most people grind or clench their teeth at some point in their lives. Our jaws are made to tolerate a certain amount of grinding and clenching.

It becomes a problem, however, when the grinding and clenching are too frequent. Our muscles need rest, and when they do not get that rest, they eventually tire out and begin to swell and/or ache. Treatment options for muscle pain are similar to those for joint pain:

  • laser therapy
  • behavior management (soft diet and rest)
  • physical reduction (custom nightguard properly made to address the problem)
  • pharmaceuticals (anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants)

To learn more about TMJ treatments in Orem, Utah, contact Taylor Family Orthodontics today at 801-226-6611! We also invite you to schedule an appointment with our orthodontist.