Questions to Ask Your TMJ Specialist and Doctor
If you consistently experience pain or stiffness in the jaw joint and surrounding tissues or clicking, popping, or grinding sounds when you move your jaw, your dentist may recommend that you visit a TMJ specialist. TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, or jaw joint. Temporomandibular disorders, also known as TMD or TMJ, are characterized by chronic pain or limited movement in the jaw. Symptoms, however, can involve other areas of the body including chronic headaches, ear pain, dizziness, and other symptoms that may seem unrelated. A TMJ specialist is trained to diagnose and treat TMJ disorders. When you visit a TMJ specialist for a consultation, it’s important to ask questions about your symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment as well as questions aimed at getting to know more about the TMJ doctor. Here is an overview of TMJ disorder as well as some additional questions you can ask during your consultation.
How do you diagnose TMJ disorder?
A diagnosis of TMJ involves a comprehensive assessment that includes both physical examination and digital imaging.The TMJ specialist will examine you for jaw pain and tenderness, listen for unusual sounds (clicks and pops, etc) with jaw movement, and check for teeth, jaw, and bite alignment. Typically, the assessment also includes a thorough examination of your medical history and dental history, X-rays and CT or MRI scans, and measurements of your jaw’s range of motion. Once the TMJ specialist confirms the diagnosis, they will discuss treatment options with you.
What causes TMJ?
The exact cause for TMJ is not always clear. In some cases, it may be caused by excessive strain on the jaw joints and muscles due to long-term bruxism or teeth clenching. Head, neck, or jaw injuries can also result in TMJ disorder. Additionally, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other health conditions have been associated with the development of TMJ in some individuals. Facial and jaw deformities, misaligned bite, and improperly fitted dentures may increase the risk of developing TMJ.
What are the treatment options for TMJ?
Depending on the severity of your condition, your TMJ specialist will want to start with the most conservative method of treatment first, before taking more aggressive measures. Treatment options for TMJ disorder include:
- Physical therapy
- Jaw-strengthening exercises
- Jaw-stretching exercises
- Manual therapy
- Heat and cold therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Muscle relaxants
- Certain antidepressant medications can also treat TMJ pain
- Splints – Removable dental appliances designed to:
- Provide pain relief
- Improve jaw function
- Reposition the jaw
- Prevent teeth clenching and grinding
Different types of splints are available depending on the specific needs of the individual.
- Arthrocentesis – The removal of scar tissue and bone spurs using small sterile needles and saline or other appropriate solution. Reduces joint inflammation and increases jaw mobility.
- Arthroscopy – Using an arthroscope to get a visual look inside the jaw, this procedure involves the surgical removal of scar tissue, smoothing of bone, and repositioning of the disc if possible.
*Currently there is no FDA-approved medication specifically for TMJ disorder.
Are there any home remedies for TMJ pain?
There are some things you can do on your own to treat or prevent TMJ pain. These include:
- Hot and cold compresses on your jaw
- Eating soft or blended foods to allow your jaw muscles time to rest
- Over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory, non-steroidal pain medications such as ibuprofen can help in the short-term but shouldn’t be used as a long-term solution.
- Taking good care of your teeth will also help prevent the need for invasive dental care, which can exacerbate TMJ pain.
Additional questions to ask your TMJ specialist
When it comes to seeking treatment for TMJ disorder, it’s important to feel confident about your treating doctor. Here are a few additional questions that can help you decide whether the specialist is a good fit for you.
- What experience do you have with TMJ?
- What is your educational background and training experience?
- Where can I find patient testimonials?
- Do you accept insurance?
Be sure to listen not just to the answers the specialist gives you but to the way you feel in their presence. If you feel rushed, if your concerns are dismissed, or if you just don’t feel comfortable, you have the right to choose a different specialist. The more comfortable you feel with your TMJ doctor, the higher the likelihood that you’ll have a great experience.
TMJ treatment at University Dental in San Diego
If you have TMJ disorder or experience symptoms of TMJ, contact University Dental in San Diego. The sooner we can begin treatment, the quicker we can eliminate your symptoms and prevent further complications. No matter how minor the symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention for TMJ as soon as possible in order to avoid the need for surgery. Dr. Armin Hage and the staff at University Dental are proud to offer compassionate, top-tier TMJ treatment from a qualified TMJ specialist in San Diego. Give us a call at (619) 582-4224.