What do you do when you sprain an ankle or break a bone? You head straight to the emergency room. Locked in a battle with bunions? Call your podiatrist. A major toothache? Naturally, you notify the team at Snow Park Dental! Many medical conditions, whether mild or severe, offer some clue indicating where you should turn for help. Others, such as TMJ disorders, make seeking treatment more difficult by producing copycat symptoms and suggesting an array of possible causes. Dr. Mark Miller, who treats patients with TMJ disorders in Albuquerque, NM, explains the causes, challenges, and treatment options for problems affecting the temporomandibular joints, or TMJs.
Fact: Your neck, back, and head may also be affected.
The TMJs connect your lower jaw to your skull. Unique among other joints in your body, movement of the TMJ depends on another structure, your teeth. It makes sense, then, that most symptoms are concentrated in the mouth and jaw area, including:
Here’s where things get complicated. Some patients experience stiffness and discomfort in their neck, back, shoulders, or all three. Others report symptoms similar to those of migraines or infections of the inner ear or sinuses. Therein lies the difficulty in diagnosing TMJ disorders. Because of this, we often see patients who seek answers from specialists or family doctors before visiting our Albuquerque dentist office to receive a diagnosis.
Fact: Many different factors contribute to jaw pain.
Bruxism is among the most common causes of jaw pain. The repetitive, forceful grinding and clenching wears down teeth and places unnatural stress on the jaw joints. However, there are several aggravating factors, such as traumatic injury to the mouth or jaw, severe overbite or underbite, missing teeth, and/or structural deformities of the jaw and its joints. Teeth that are severely crooked or crowded or have shifted out of position also increase the likelihood of developing symptoms of TMJ disorders. Using a combination of a bite measurement, a dental examination, and x-rays, Dr. Miller will confirm a diagnosis and determine the underlying cause before recommending an appropriate treatment plan.
Fact: Only a small percentage of patients with TMJ disorder require surgery.
Dr. Miller notes that most patients find relief from their symptoms without the need for surgery or invasive treatment. Your personalized treatment plan takes into consideration the underlying cause of your discomfort — teeth grinding, structural abnormalities, or malocclusion — and the extent of damage to your teeth if any. For example, jaw pain aggravated by a misaligned bite may be treated with a custom-fitted oral splint. Other treatment options include orthodontics, restorative dentistry, special exercises, and lifestyle changes. Upon addressing the problem, bonding or porcelain veneers may be recommended to restore the function and appearance of badly damaged teeth.
Does your jaw lock, snap, or pop? To learn more about treating TMJ disorders, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mark Miller, contact our Albuquerque dentist’s office at (505) 596-4479. We welcome patients living in Edgewood, Coralles, Los Lunas, Rio Rancho, and the surrounding communities.
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