Temporomandibular Joint Disorder Irvine, CA

Dr. Ursula Levine, DDS | Levine Dentistry, Inc.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders

TMJ Treatment Irvine, CA

Do you notice an audible popping or clicking noise when you chew? Do you suffer from chronic jaw pain or frequent headaches? If so, then you may be experiencing a disorder of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. TMJ disorder affects more than 10 million Americans, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Levine has extensive experience in diagnosis and management of this common problem, and patients with TMJ disorder in Irvine often come to her seeking relief from their symptoms.

Understanding the TMJ

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is where the mandible (the lower jaw bone) meets the skull. The bones in joints are covered with a layer of cartilage, which facilitates smooth movement and an even distribution of forces. In the TMJ, the bones are also separated by a small disc made up of fibrocartilage (a stronger form of cartilage), which absorbs shock and helps to keep the hinging and sliding motions smooth.

Although it may at first look like a simple hinge joint, the movements at the TMJ are more complex than they may appear, with both hinging and gliding motions needed for smooth functioning at this joint. Several different muscles act at this joint to produce motions of the jaw. In addition, many of the nerves and blood vessels of the face are in close proximity to the TMJ, making this a particularly complex region of the body.

Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorder

The TMJ can malfunction in several different ways. The disc may erode or may shift out of proper alignment, either due to trauma or to chronic wear and tear. The cartilage that covers the bones can develop arthritis. Chronic tooth grinding can put too much pressure on the joint, causing it to break down. A misalignment of the jaws or the teeth may cause the joint to be chronically held in improper positions, damaging it.

Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include the following:

  • a clicking or popping noise when chewing or when opening or closing the mouth
  • jaw pain or tenderness
  • pain in or around the ear
  • facial pain or swelling
  • a “locked” jaw
  • toothaches
  • vertigo (feeling dizzy or off-balance)
  • tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • limited range of motion of the mouth
  • difficulty chewing or biting
  • migraine headaches
  • tired or stiff facial muscles

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with Dr. Levine about them. She will perform a thorough examination, including checking the joint’s range of motion. In addition, she may request imaging (such as X-rays, a CBCT scan, and/or an MRI) to look at the structures of the TMJ and surrounding area.

If you’re diagnosed with TMJ disorder (which is sometimes referred to as TMD), she can outline the recommended treatment options and help you decide on the best course of action.

Treatment of TMJ disorder

Treating of TMJ disorder depends on the specific cause of the problem. The first stage of TMJ treatment is typically making small lifestyle changes, like applying hot or cold compresses to the jaw, or eating a soft foods-only diet. Muscle relaxants, pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed. For some patients, these measures will be enough to relieve symptoms. For others, additional treatment will be needed.

Some patients benefit from physical therapy, which both stretches and strengthens the jaw muscles and helps the patient learn how to hold the jaw in a healthy position. Biofeedback may be useful to reduce stress, which often leads to teeth grinding. Oral splints or mouth guards may also be used, to reduce stress on the TMJ.

Some people benefit from corticosteroid injections into the jaw joint, or acupuncture or ultrasound therapy to treat chronic pain. As a last resort, a surgical procedure may be used to address the alignment of the jaw and correct problems with the TMJ.

TMJ treatment Irvine, CA

If you are experiencing pain, stiffness, clicking or popping sounds, or other symptoms in or around your jaw, the problem could be TMJ disorder. You don’t just have to live with your symptoms; there are many treatment options that can help. After a thorough exam, Irvine dentist Dr. Ursula Levine will discuss your various options with you, and make treatment recommendations that are most likely to succeed in your case. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Levine by calling 949-727-9600 or emailing our office today..