Suffering from TMJ and migraines in Anchorage? Facial pain affects nearly everyone at some point. In some cases, the pain is caused by a malfunction of the TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, which connects the jaw to the lower skull. Dentists are often the first to notice signs of TMJ.
Without treatment intervention, TMJ problems can worsen over time and cause excruciating pain and other symptoms. If you are experiencing any pain or tenderness around your jaw, or other symptoms of TMJ problems, Dr. Joshua Kennedy of Turnagain Dental can help.
Dr. Kennedy will use advanced evaluation techniques and diagnostic equipment to determine whether a TMJ problem is causing your pain. If so, he will propose an effective plan of treatment to alleviate discomfort and put you back on the road to optimal health and wellness.
Understanding TMJ Disorder
The TMJ is located on either side of the head right below the ear, and works like a sliding hinge, allowing the jaw to move forward, backward and side-to-side. The bones of the joint are covered with cartilage and separated with a small shock-absorbing disk that keeps jaw movement smooth.
There are several things that can cause the TMJ to malfunction:
- The disk can shift out of alignment or erode.
- The cartilage covering the bone can deteriorate due to arthritis.
- The joint can sustain damage from a traumatic blow.
- Chronic teeth clenching/grinding or teeth that don’t bite together properly can put too much stress on the joint.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, between 5 and 12 percent of Americans have TMJ disorder. While anyone can develop TMJ disorder, there are certain individuals who are at a higher risk, including:
- People with certain medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and lower back pain
- Chronic teeth grinders or clenchers
- People who are highly stressed
- People who have undergone certain dental procedures
- People with jaw injuries or trauma (such as a sports injury or a blow to the jaw)
- Women (according to the TMJ Association, there are nine women to every one man seeking TMJ treatment)
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
TMD can cause an array of symptoms, which range in severity. These symptoms include:
- Jaw pain or soreness
- Excessive tooth wear
- Clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Shoulder and neck pain
- Restricted range of motion of the mouth
- Dizziness or problems with balance
- The jaw locking in the open or closed position
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Finger numbness or tingling
- Misaligned bite
- Sinus pain
Diagnosing TMJ Disorder
Since some of the symptoms of TMJ disorder are related to other health conditions or can occur on their own, it’s important to get properly diagnosed by a medical professional. A dentist or oral surgeon who is experienced and trained in diagnosing and treating TMJ disorder can design a unique treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.
Before your TMJ appointment, we recommend that you gather your medical records, health insurance information, a list of medications you are currently taking, and other information that may be important to your diagnosis and treatment. Take the time to write down all the symptoms you have been experiencing and their frequency (e.g., two times a day, once a week). Be sure to also write down a list of questions you may have in regards to treatment options or symptoms.
During your TMJ appointment, Dr. Kennedy will do the following:
- Review your complete medical history. This will allow him to determine whether you have any preexisting conditions or are taking certain medications that may interfere with treatment.
- Ask you questions about your symptoms. Be completely transparent about the symptoms you are experiencing, including their severity. Even if you think a symptom is not related to your jaw pain, it is possible that it is a lesser-known symptom of TMJ disorder.
- Conduct a physical evaluation. Dr. Kennedy will evaluate your jaw, bite, head and neck areas to check for any misalignment or swelling. Physical symptoms could affect the type of treatment Dr. Kennedy recommends.
- Take X-rays and impressions. Depending on your symptoms, Dr. Kennedy may take X-rays and impressions of your teeth and bite. He may also use computer-guided software to better diagnose the problem and visualize how certain treatments will work.
There are a variety of ways to treat TMD and alleviate pain. Over-the-counter medications and muscle relaxants can help soothe discomfort. Wearing a mouth guard or special orthotic splint at night is also recommended. Some patients find relief from professional massage therapy, acupuncture and biofeedback. Botox injections are another way to relax the jaw muscles and prevent them from cramping.
The Link Between TMJ And Migraines
Research now shows a link between painful migraine headaches and problems with the TMJ. Some experts believe that TMJ problems trigger severe headaches, which can occur on one or both sides of the head and be accompanied by visual or sensory changes known as “auras.”
Malocclusion or a “bad bite,” chronic teeth grinding or clenching or an injury to the jaw can cause the jaw muscles to tighten. Some experts believe that the pain from the strained muscles can travel to other places in the skull, causing the onset of a migraine.
If you have been diagnosed with TMJ disorder and are experiencing frequent migraines, Dr. Kennedy can help determine whether one has to do with the other. If so, treating TMJ problems may provide much-needed relief from the painful headaches.
Learn More About TMD Treatment
For more information about TMJ disorder and how to treat its painful symptoms, please contact Turnagain Dental and request an appointment with Dr. Kennedy. Call or email our office today.