TMJ Treatment in Austin, TX
There are many different types of treatment options for temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD/TMJ) in Austin, depending on the severity of your own situation. At The Hills Dental Spa, we know that the symptoms of TMJ/TMD can range from merely annoying to physically debilitating. Regardless of how severe your condition is, our Austin neuromuscular dentist is specially trained to identify the right treatment to correct your condition as quickly and painlessly as possible.
WHAT IS TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT DISORDER?
It’s something we don’t think about, but when our bite is misaligned we’ll know in the pain it causes. For your bite to function and fit, three components must work together: your teeth, the jaw muscles, and your temporomandibular joint. When everything is working well, you have no pain in the jaw or face area, and there isn’t any clicking or popping when you chew. But if one of the three components creates alignment problems with the jaw, this leads to problems with the bite that can lead to jaw pain that can also radiate down into the neck and shoulders. You are suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
Our temporomandibular joint (TMJ) allows us to bite, chew, swallow, and talk. The joint combines a hinge action with sliding motions, forward and back and side-to-side. Problems with the joint leading to TMJ can often be traced back to misalignment of the patient’s bite, as that creates obvious stress. But the condition can also be caused by more subtle issues such as clenching your teeth or grinding your teeth at night. Prior injury to the jaw can lead to TMJ.
Here are typical causes of TMJ:
- Grinding teeth during sleep
- Clenching the teeth
- Movement of the soft cushion (disc) between the ball and socket of the joint
- Arthritis in the joint
- Traumatic injury to the jaw
One effective way to treat TMJ is through the use of dental orthotics, also called mouthguards or splints. An orthotic device is a custom-made dental appliance to help achieve the proper bite alignment after you have been diagnosed with TMD. These comfortable and unobtrusive dental orthotic appliances are worn by the patient according to the neuromuscular dentist’s specifications. There are different goals of dental orthotics, including:
- To protect the teeth from nighttime tooth grinding
- To help reposition the jaw joint to its proper location
- To allow the jaw and face muscles to fully relax
- To realign the patient’s bite to its optimal position
Some patients will need to wear a dental orthotic appliance only in the evenings while others may require that the splint be worn all day and night to help achieve the correct bite. Many patients experience almost immediate relief from certain TMJ symptoms, such as severe headaches, while wearing the device.
Is TMJ Treatment Covered by Insurance?
Typically dental insurances do not cover TMJ treatments.
Jaw Pain Relief
Certain dental procedures can also help to realign a patient’s bite and relieve TMD symptoms. Missing teeth, uneven bite surfaces, or decayed teeth can cause dental stress, thereby leading to stress on the temporomandibular joint. Dental procedures that may bring relief to TMJ include:
Are There Exercises to Help Relieve TMJ Pain?
For some patients, exercises for the jaw can relieve their pain. These exercises seek to help by…
- Strengthening the jaw muscles
- Stretching the jaw muscles and TMJ
- Relaxing the jaw
- Increasing mobility
- Reducing jaw clicking
These are some exercises to try:Relaxed jaw exercisePlace your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Consciously let your lower jaw relax downward, slightly separating your teeth.Goldfish exercisesPlace an index finger in front of your ear where your TMJ is located. Put another finger on your chin. Open your jaw either halfway or all the way and feel the slight resistance.Chin tuckLightly link your hands behind your bottom to push your shoulders forward. Now pull your chin straight back as if you’re trying to create a double chin.Jaw resistancePut your thumb under your chin and create some resistance as you open your mouth. Pinch your chin with forefingers and thumb of both hands to hold it when your mouth is open. Then close your mouth feeling the resistance.Tongue upHold your tongue up against the roof of your mouth, and then slowly open and close your mouth.Side-to-side and forward jaw movementPlace an object that’s about ¼ inch between your front teeth. First move your jaw slowly from side to side with the object between your teeth. Then do the same thing, but this time move your bottom jaw forward so your bottom teeth are in front of your top teeth.
TMJ TREATMENT OPTIONS
Besides dental orthotic devices, therapy, and dental work, there are other treatment options that may help alleviate the pain of TMD including:
- Medications, such as muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs
- Relaxation techniques and stress management
- Jaw exercises, stretching and massage
- Jaw rest
- Heat and ice therapy
- Orthodontics to realign the teeth
- Surgery, only used as a last resort
Does TMJ Disorder Ever Require Surgery?
By using the techniques and philosophy of a physiologic based bite, it is almost always possible to say jaw surgery is not needed. This goes in opposition to traditional dental approaches to some TMJ problems. Physiologic dentistry takes in to consideration more than just the joint. Muscles, jaw position, airway, nasal breathing all must be included in handling TMJ related issues. This is one of the main reasons that statistically so few jaw surgeries actually work.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF TMJ AND WOULD I BE A CANDIDATE FOR TREATMENT?
- Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, or in and around the ears when you chew or otherwise open your mouth
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when you chew or simply open or close your mouth
- Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” either open or closed
TMJ is most common in people between the ages of 20 and 40; women have the condition more often than men. These are the typical symptoms:
- Consistent headaches
- Regular jaw stiffness
- Ear ringing
- Unintentional teeth grinding
- A tired feeling in your face
- Upper shoulder pain
HOW CAN COSMETIC DENTISTRY BE USED FOR TREATING TMJ?
It would seem that cosmetic dentistry, which addresses aesthetic issues with the smile, and TMJ wouldn’t have much in common, but that’s not the case. Often bite problems can be caused by a combination of misalignment plus either worn teeth or prior dental work that may have broken down.
For instance, a crown can be used cosmetically to change the shape of a misshapen tooth, but it can also fix the bite of a tooth that has been worn down by teeth grinding. Invisalign® may seem like a cosmetic tooth alignment tool, but misaligned bites are behind TMJ so fixing them provides double benefit to the patient.
WHAT COSMETIC PROCEDURES DO YOU USE WITH TMJ TREATMENT?
- Porcelain veneers — If a patient has been grinding his or her teeth, chances are the teeth are now visibly shorter. After the bite has been corrected, we can use porcelain veneers to return length to the teeth. These thin porcelain shells are placed onto the fronts of the teeth, masking various imperfections.
- Invisalign® — One of our most popular cosmetic procedures, Invisalign®, can play a valuable role in treating TMJ. Invisalign® isn’t meant for major orthodontic movement, but usually the misalignment that accompanies TMJ can be relatively minor. Still, even minor misalignment makes the jaw muscles and joints work hard to try and create alignment. Invisalign® is perfect for mild to moderate tooth movement, and it does so basically invisibly, thanks to its use of clear plastic aligner trays to move the teeth.
- Inlays and onlays — We use these porcelain restorations (where they are on the tooth dictates their name) to replace former amalgam fillings that may have failed or to repair a tooth with extensive decay or a serious crack. In a cosmetic sense, they become invisible with the porcelain used for these restorations, but they can also correct bite problems, lowering or raising cusps as needed.
- Porcelain crowns — The nightly grinding that is often a part of TMJ can shorten the teeth impacted. We use dental crowns to return height to teeth that have been ground down. This is critical for TMJ treatment, especially after the teeth have been moved with Invisalign®, to attain proper bite alignment.
- Tooth bonding — As with veneers, we can change the shape of a tooth that has been damaged by TMJ clenching. Bonding uses ceramic resin painted onto teeth to change the shape and size, or to cover issues such as minor cracks.
How Long Does Treatment For TMJ Take?
This is completely variable based on the patient and his or her severity of symptoms. Sometimes the treatment can be relatively quick and other times it can be a series of different treatments over time. Each plan is personalized to meet the needs of each patient.
WHY SHOULD I SEE A COSMETIC DENTIST WHO SPECIALIZES IN AND UNDERSTANDS NEUROMUSCULAR DENTISTRY?
TMJ may have its roots in misalignment of the jaw or the overall bite, but as it continues the disorder will invariably cause damage to the patient’s smile, both functionally and cosmetically. Most patients have no idea that they are suffering from TMJ (or even what TMJ is), so they keep living with the pain and grinding, clenching, and damaging their teeth.
That’s why having dual expertise in neuromuscular dentistry and cosmetic dentistry is an advantage for our patients. First, we know to look for and correctly diagnose TMJ. From there we can target correcting your jaw alignment. After that, the role changes to a cosmetic dentist as we move on to repairing the damage caused by TMJ and giving you back a beautiful smile.
See What Our Paients Are Saying
“They have a really advanced system of dealing with TMJ disorder, and a wonderful office with very educated and well trained staff. I was very impressed how they were able to correctly and scientifically adjust my jaw with the system they use. I felt so relaxed during the visit. Will definitely be a long term patient there if I ever need dental work in the future, and will recommend them to anyone.”
SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION
If you are searching for the right TMJ/TMD treatment option in Austin, contact us at (512) 347-0044 or fill out our contact form to schedule a neuromuscular dentistry consultation with a knowledgeable Austin neuromuscular dentist at The Hills Dental Spa. Located in Austin, we serve all of Central Texas and the surrounding areas including Westlake, Lakeway, Bee Cave, San Antonio and Waco.