TMJ Treatment

woman in exam chair discussing treatmentAt Vaca and Kirby Dental, we specialize in providing comprehensive TMJ treatment to help you find effective jaw pain relief. Our holistic approach ensures that every aspect of your dental health is addressed, leading to improved overall well-being.

What Is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is often linked to issues like teeth clenching, jaw muscle soreness, headaches, tinnitus, and joint noises such as clicking and popping. Despite these negative associations, the TMJ is a sophisticated and vital part of how our teeth, muscles, and joints work together. For optimal function, the jaw joint, muscles, and teeth need to operate in harmony.

The TMJ comprises the condyle (upper part of the lower jawbone), the disc (a cushion between the jaw and skull), and ligaments that secure the disc to the condyle. A balanced bite relies on a stable TMJ, which in turn depends on the proper development of the jaw and respiratory structures.

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) affects the joints and muscles responsible for jaw movement. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • Clicking or popping sounds in the jaw
  • Headaches or earaches

The muscles in the head, neck, and face are crucial in TMJ disorders, where dysfunction can cause jaw pain and contribute to headaches and migraines.

Oral-Systemic Health and Comprehensive TMJ Assessment

At Vaca and Kirby Dental, we recognize the critical link between oral health and overall systemic health. Our comprehensive approach to TMJ assessment involves examining various aspects such as pain levels, joint sounds (like clicking, popping, or crepitus), jaw movement range, nerve discomfort, muscle sensitivity, teeth grinding or clenching, bite alignment, tooth wear, and airway health. By considering how TMJ issues can impact the entire body, we aim to provide optimal care and support for our patients’ overall well-being.

Clenching, Airway Problems, and Night Guards

Airway obstruction can lead to teeth clenching or grinding during sleep, which in turn causes TMJ pain and dysfunction. When the airway is blocked, the brain signals the muscles to tighten to clear the obstruction. This muscle tension can exert pressure on the TMJ, resulting in pain, discomfort, and misalignment of the bite.

Night guards are often used to address clenching and grinding, but their impact on sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is mixed; they can either improve or worsen the condition. Therefore, part of our TMJ evaluation includes assessing risk factors and conducting sleep screenings for SDB to tailor the best treatment approach for each patient.

TMJ Classifications

TMJ conditions are categorized into different stages based on the severity and symptoms.

STAGE 1: Healthy
The jaw functions normally with no issues in the discs, ligaments, or cartilage.

STAGE 2: Minor Issues with Clicking/Popping
Slight damage to the ligaments or cartilage causes occasional sounds during jaw movement.

STAGE 3: Frequent Clicking/Popping or Locking
The disc partially shifts out of place, leading to more regular noises or occasional locking of the jaw.

STAGE 4: Dislocated Disc
The disc is completely out of place, potentially causing significant discomfort and jaw dysfunction.

STAGE 5: Joint Deterioration
The disc is absent, resulting in direct contact between bones, often leading to significant pain and restricted movement.

Many people manage well with minor clicking or popping, but these issues can lead to dental problems over time, such as cracks, fractures, and bite changes due to ongoing stress on the teeth.

Prevention and Treatment

At Vaca and Kirby Dental, we aim to identify TMJ issues early, even before symptoms appear. Our goal is to stabilize the bite, muscles, and joint by crafting custom splints (orthotics) or by carefully analyzing and adjusting the bite for better health. We provide personalized TMJ treatment plans to ensure effective jaw pain relief for all our patients.

Depending on the severity of the condition, we may recommend additional imaging, such as CBCT scans for the joint or MRI for the disc. Our comprehensive approach to TMJ treatment also includes working with an integrated physical therapist and incorporating therapies like myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, or acupuncture to ensure holistic care.

Dr Kirby does not do surgery for TMJ. If needed, he will refer you to surgeons he works with.

TMJ / Occlusal Guards

Loss of multiple teeth or excessive wear can severely impact the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is essential for chewing, speaking, and other jaw functions. This complex system is crucial for dental health, yet often overlooked. Disrupted balance in the TMJ from unusual tooth wear or loss can alter your appearance, speech, chewing ability, and bite alignment. A symmetrical bite, where the upper and lower teeth interact correctly, ensures even jaw pressure distribution, and imbalances can lead to eating difficulties and aesthetic changes.

Take the First Step Toward Relief

If you’re experiencing any symptoms related to TMJ, such as jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds, or headaches, don’t wait to seek help. At Vaca and Kirby Dental, our TMJ dentist, Dr. Kirby, is dedicated to providing personalized TMJ treatment for effective jaw pain relief. Contact us today to schedule a comprehensive TMJ assessment and take the first step towards a healthier, pain-free life.

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