How a TMJ Specialist Can Help with Jaw Pain and Dysfunction

How Can a TMJ Specialist Near Me Help with Joint Pain?

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD) include multiple conditions that affect the joint and muscles that control jaw movement. The symptoms and complications can be painful and uncomfortable, but there are many surgical and non-surgical treatment options available.

A qualified TMJ specialist at North Carolina Specialty Hospital can help you find relief from jaw symptoms. Our surgeons offer compassionate, high-quality care in a relaxed environment. Learn more about what could be causing your jaw pain as well as what treatments are available.

What is the Temporomandibular Joint?

Staff members go through paperwork at a desk while others review schedules in the background.

The TMJ is the joint on each side of the jaw, connecting it to the skull. The joints provide several dimensions of movement in the jaw: forward, backward, side-to-side, and up and down. When operating correctly, the TMJs allow you to speak as well as chew and swallow food.

These joints are complicated systems involving bones, muscles, ligaments, cushioning tissue, synovial fluid, nerves, and connective tissue. Any dysfunction in the components of one or both TMJs can disrupt normal functioning and cause pain and other symptoms.

TMJ Disorders and Symptoms

The term TMJ, or sometimes TMD, refers to several conditions involving the temporomandibular joints. Expert TMJ doctors organize these conditions into three main categories:

  1. Joint and Disc Disorders. These include degenerative joint disorders, movement of the cushioning disc, and joint pain.
  2. Headache-Associated Conditions. TMJ disorders can cause pain in the joint accompanied by related headaches.
  3. Muscle Disorders. These include pain in the muscles controlling the joint, which can radiate outward.

TMJ disorders can be short-lived or chronic. They often co-occur with other issues, like headaches, back or neck pain, insomnia, or fibromyalgia. It is often impossible to find exact causes of these conditions. Some possible reasons are injuries, arthritis, poor jaw alignment, stress, and teeth grinding.

Symptoms of TMJ vary by person and the specific type of disorder, but some typical signs include:

  • Pain in and around the jaw or in the joint, either on one or both sides
  • Swelling and tenderness on the side of the face
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Earaches
  • Aching pain throughout the face
  • Locking in the TMJ
  • Pain and difficulty chewing
  • Clicking or grating when moving the joints

Non-Surgical Treatments for TMJ Disorders

Many people with TMJ symptoms benefit from conservative treatments without surgical intervention:

  • Physical therapy and specific jaw stretching exercises
  • Over-the counter or prescription pain medications
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Oral splints or mouth guards
  • TMJ injections of pain medications or corticosteroids
  • Botox injections to reduce muscle inflammation and movement
  • TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) to relax the joint and surrounding muscles
  • Therapy to manage stress, jaw clenching, and teeth grinding

In addition to treatments, a TMJ and jaw doctor might recommend home remedies and lifestyle choices to help you manage symptoms:

  • Eat softer foods and avoid gum and other chewy foods.
  • Chew evenly with both sides of the jaw.
  • Avoid opening the mouth very wide.
  • Avoid biting fingernails or chewing the inside of the mouth.
  • Use relaxation techniques to lower stress and anxiety.
  • Use heat therapy to manage facial pain.

Do I Need Surgery for a TMJ Disorder?

An oral and maxillofacial specialist can provide surgery for patients who do not get relief from home remedies and non-surgical treatments. A specialist will evaluate your symptoms, degree of dysfunction, effectiveness of other treatments, and imaging scans of your jaw to determine if you are a good candidate for TMJ surgery. Surgical procedures for TMJ disorders include:

  • Arthrocentesis uses small needles and fluids to flush out debris and any inflammatory byproducts causing pain and swelling.
  • Arthroscopic surgery involves a small scope to avoid open joint surgery. Using small instruments and a video screen, the surgeon can look for and correct any issues in the joint. This might include a displaced disc or inflamed tissue.
  • Open-joint surgery uses larger incisions for greater access to the TMJ. With this type of surgery, the risks are higher and the recovery time is longer, but for some patients, it is the best option. You might need this surgery for degenerative conditions, tumors, or severe scarring in the bone.

Surgery is a big decision. Consult with an experienced specialist to find the best solution for your symptoms and pain.

Between 11 million and 12 million people suffer from some degree of TMJ pain. If you’re one of them, it’s time to talk to a specialist about treatments. You don’t have to live with the pain and dysfunction of a TMJ disorder. There could be a simple, conservative solution, or you could be a good candidate for surgery.

To talk to our TMJ surgeons and learn more about your options, contact North Carolina Specialty Hospital today and request an appointment online.

Stay Current

Educational Articles & More

View News & Press