TMJ Dysfunction Therapies in Flagstaff
Dr. John Bacon and Dr. Brad Lerud have the training and experience to treat most non-severe cases of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction and the associated oral and overall health concerns in our Flagstaff, AZ dentistry practice. TMJ dysfunction or TMD is a phrase that encompasses a number of problems related to the joints that connect our jaws to the skull bone. These joints are small and easily damaged when exposed to excessive strain or trauma. When these joints and the muscles that move the mouth do not work together properly, the result can be pain or severely limited jaw movement. Please contact the Flagstaff Downtown Dental team right away to schedule a consultation if you experience any of the following symptoms of TMD:
- Jaw that feels sore or tense
- Chronic headaches, especially in the morning or following meals
- Neck, shoulder, or back pain
- Pain that increases due to stress
- Clicking, grinding, or popping noises when opening and closing the mouth
- Painful or difficult jaw movement
- Teeth that don’t fit together the way they should
TMJ Dysfunction Diagnosis
Let untreated, TMD can lead to a number of more advanced oral and overall health concerns, so it’s important we make an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. We screen for the warning signs of TMJ dysfunction at every six month checkup. If you notice any of the common symptoms, we encourage you to let us know right away. There are also some risk factors that will increase your likelihood of suffering from TMJ dysfunction. Those who have had head, neck, or back injuries and those with arthritis in other joints are among the most likely to suffer from this common oral health concern. However, TMJ dysfunction can occur for any number of reasons including excessive strain caused by untreated nighttime teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism) or uncorrected orthodontic misalignments. We’ll evaluate your jaw visually, manually, and aurally. If we diagnose TMJ dysfunction, there is no one treatment that can fix every case. Instead, our team of dental care providers will create a custom treatment plan to get your smile back to full, pain free function.
The main goal of TMD therapies is to realign the jaw to work easily and painlessly. This allows the mouth to open and close and patients to be able to complete everyday tasks like speaking, smiling, and chewing. In most cases, TMJ dysfunction requires a number of different treatments performed in conjunction to reset the jaw joints, relieve pain, and restore full function. In most treatment plans, there will be both an at-home and in-office care plan. It’s essential you perform the at-home portion of your treatment to attain the maximum benefit from our professional treatments. At-home treatments usually include:
- Taking anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, or pain relievers as prescribed
- Resting your jaw for a predetermined amount of time each day
- Completing a series of stretching exercises designed to get your jaw to work well in the proper position.
- Noticing and changing teeth clenching habits by keeping teeth apart when not eating
- Changing your diet temporarily to softer foods
- Using hot and cold packs as prescribed
In more advanced cases, we may need to partner with a local orthodontist for more advanced orthodontic treatments to realign the jaw. This could include traditional braces, retainers, or other realigning devices.
A common form of orthodontic intervention we recommend for patients with TMJ dysfunction is an occlusal splint. These are custom made oral appliances that shift the jaw into the ideal resting position during sleep. This relieves any unconscious strain on the TMJ during sleep, and over several weeks, months, or years of nightly wear, patients’ jaw may begin to fall naturally into this ideal position while awake or asleep.