It aches, throbs and may even keep you from opening your mouth. Severe TMJ disorder can be debilitating. If your TMJ pain is rooted in deeper jaw dysfunction, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon in St. Louis, MO for surgical intervention.
What Is TMJ Disorder?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It’s the joint on either side of your jaw that allows your mouth to open and close. Each is a concert of maxillofacial structures, including your skull, jaw bone, ligaments and a group of muscles. They’re so strong that they can exert a bite force over 200 pounds.
TMJ disorder is a broad term for a group of problems that cause pain and discomfort in the joint. In mild cases, a sufferer might experience headaches, a sore jaw and feel their jaw click when they open their mouth. In severe cases, the pain is so intense that eating is difficult and the jaw can cease opening or closing completely.
What Causes It?
Like many joint-related conditions, TMJ disorder has a number of potential causes. A dentist or oral surgeon will need to take a detail history, take x-rays and perform a through exam during a consultation appointment to pinpoint the cause.
A few of the more common causes include:
- Long-term teeth clenching or grinding (bruxism)
- Erosion or misalignment of the disk in the joint
- Cartilage damage from injury or arthritis
- Serious misalignment of the jaw
Conservative Treatment Options
In most cases, TMJ disorder can be treated without oral surgery. Once the underlying cause has been identified, your dentist will recommend a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Some common treatments are:
- Hot/cold therapy
- TMJ massage
- Jaw stretches and exercises
- Practicing posture and body awareness
- Night guard fitting
- Physical therapy
- Orthodontic work
A night guard is a dental device fitted specifically to your teeth. Worn at night, it creates a soft barrier between your upper and lower teeth. It keeps them apart, helping the muscles relax, preventing pain and alleviating chronic spasms. You may be tempted by over-the-counter night guards, but it’s important to get a night guard from a qualified dental professional. A poor fit can make TMJ pain worse instead of better.
Severe TMJ Disorder
Surgery is a last resort for TMJ pain. It’s reserved for the worst cases and when there is a good chance that surgery can treat the underlying cause of the pain. Talk with your dentist before you see an oral surgeon in St. Louis, MO to find out if surgery could be right for you.
If your dentist recommends surgery, you’ll be referred to oral surgeons for a second assessment and treatment. Depending on the underlying cause of your pain, different surgical options may be presented to you.
Some surgical options include:
- Restorative dental work
- Jaw reconstruction
- Bite adjustment
Restorative Dental Work
Restorative dental work is typically the mildest form of surgical intervention for TMJ pain. When multiple teeth are missing, it often sets off a cascade of bite issues, bone loss and shifting teeth that easily lead to bruxism and TMJ pain. Restoring the teeth and underlying bone can help reduce stress on the jaw and alleviate TMJ dysfunction.
Dental implants are the best way to restore missing teeth and support the jaw underneath. Dental implants are titanium posts that are screwed into the jaw, often with bone grafting material, to anchor a dental prosthetic. They can be done tooth by tooth, used to anchor a dental bridge or used to anchor dentures.
If your remaining teeth have shifted significantly, restorative dental work may need to be paired with orthodontics to set your bite back in alignment. In cases of severe tooth damage, we may recommending pulling teeth and replacing them with implants rather than risk an unsuccessful treatment plan. We’ll work in concert with your dentist and orthodontist to help you make the decision that’s right for you.
When a portion of the jaw is lost or weakened from missing teeth, disease or trauma, jaw reconstruction can restore bone to its natural shape, strength and health. At Gateway, we utilize the latest bone grafting techniques reconstruct the jaw.
Surgical bite adjustment, or orthognathic surgery, addresses situations in which the upper and lower jaw don’t meet or fit together correctly. Surgery usually preceded by orthodontic work. The jaw can be moved forward or backward depending on the bite issue at hand. Bite issues this extreme can be heredity, environmental or causes by trauma.
Contacting an Oral Surgeon in St. Louis, MO
Severe TMJ pain should not be ignored. As a qualified oral surgeon in St. Louis, MO, Gateway Oral Surgery will assess your situation and offer an individualized treatment plan. If you would like more information on maxillofacial surgery, call our office today.