Many people don’t know that the temporomandibular joint is the leading cause of jaw pain or discomfort. This jaw joint, commonly called the TMJ, plays a significant role in the day-to-day function of the mouth. Persistent pain and the inability to open or close mouth completely, are both signs of a TMJ disorder. At MOSA Oral Maxillofacial & Dental Implant Surgery in Monterey, Salinas, and Santa Cruz, CA, our oral surgeons have significant experience diagnosing and treating disorders of the temporomandibular joint. During the initial consultation, Dr. Michael Lewis, Dr. Ryan Lloyd, or Dr. Andre LaMothe will perform a thorough examination of the position of the jaw and determine the best course of treatment to restore oral function.
What is the TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint is located at the back of the jaw line, near the bottom of the ear. It connects the mandible, or lower jaw, to the temporal bone, a part of the skull. The TMJ has multiple functions: it is a hinge joint, which allows the jaw to move up and down, and a sliding joint, which lets the jaw move side to side. This unique combination makes the jaw extremely versatile, working with the muscles of the face to perform functions such as chewing, speaking, and breathing with ease.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
The unique positioning of this joint also makes it extremely susceptible to the development of joint disorders, which can cause significant pain or discomfort. TMJ disorders can develop for a variety of reasons. While the exact cause of a TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine, the following causes can all contribute to TMJ problems:
- Jaw, neck, or head injuries
- Teeth clenching or grinding
- Displacement of the joint’s disk
When patients experience any of the symptoms listed below, they may need to seek treatment for a TMJ disorder:
- Unconscious grinding or clenching of the teeth
- Soreness or stiffness in and around the jaw muscles
- Frequent headaches or dizziness
- Hearing loss, ear pain, or ringing in the ears
- Difficulty or intense pain when chewing, yawning, or opening the mouth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Jaws that make popping or clicking sounds when opening the mouth
- Difficulty opening the mouth all the way
- Jaws locking or catching when opening and closing the mouth
It is important to see a specialist like an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for treatment if any of these symptoms are present. Our specialty training in the restoration of oral and facial function provides us with unique insight and experience into TMJ therapies, and we work with our patients to develop the appropriate plan for treatment.
At MOSA Oral Maxillofacial & Dental Implant Surgery, we treat temporomandibular joint disorders through both nonsurgical therapy and surgical intervention. When patients visit our office for an initial consultation, we will determine the best course of treatment for each unique situation. First, we will perform a thorough examination and X-ray evaluation of the jaws and face. Many times, a general awareness of daily behaviors and the appropriate self-care can help resolve the issue. Techniques such as resting the jaw, eating a soft food diet, using a night guard, and applying ice and heat to the joint are often very effective. When self-care alone cannot treat the TMJ disorder, we may recommend a surgical procedure to help restore equilibrium to the bite.
Arthrocentesis is often the first surgical procedure recommended to restore normal function. In this procedure, the oral surgeon will enter the joint and insert a saline solution, which reduces inflammation and removes tissue breakdown products in the joint. Many patients choose to undergo this procedure under IV anesthesia and can complete the entire treatment in the comfort of our state-of-the-art surgical facility.
We may recommend arthroscopy when the TMJ disorder is more severe. During this procedure, a very small imaging instrument called an arthroscope is inserted into the jaw to visualize the cause of the joint problem better. Once identified, the surgeon may wash out the joint, remove scar tissue, smooth the bone, or reposition the disc based on the specific issue. Finally, a full joint replacement may be necessary when minimally invasive surgeries cannot cure the problem
Temporomandibular Joint Treatment in Monterey, Salinas, and Santa Cruz, CA
The oral surgeons at MOSA Oral Maxillofacial & Dental Implant Surgery will work with you and your team of doctors to find a solution for your condition. If you have experienced any of the TMJ symptoms listed above, contact our office today to schedule a consultation appointment and start moving toward recovery. Treating a TMJ disorder is a delicate process, and our team looks forward to providing you with a long-term solution that benefits your health and comfort.