TMJ/TMD Treatment
in Modesto

Get Help For Your Jaw Pain & Discomfort

If you are experiencing serious jaw pain in Modesto, something is definitely wrong with your mouth, and it’s important to get help from Dr. Corey Acree at Downey Park Family Dental. You may be suffering from TMJ/TMD, a common jaw disorder that can cause serious pain and complications if it’s left untreated. Learn more below, or contact us now for a consultation.

dental bridge

What is TMJ/TMD?

The terms TMJ and TMD are used synonymously to refer to a jaw condition known as “temporomandibular joint disorder.” 

The temporomandibular joint is located just beneath each of your ears. It’s responsible for connecting your jaw to your skull, so it’s an important part of your anatomy, and is used when you chew, eat, yawn, speak, and more. 

As the name suggests, TMJ/TMD occurs when this small, delicate joint becomes damaged or inflamed. This can be caused by direct trauma, such as a blow to the head. Other causes of TMJ/TMD include jaw overuse (clenching or chewing gum excessively, for example), and inflammatory conditions like arthritis. 

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TMJ/TMD Treatment Options

There are a lot of different ways to treat TMJ/TMD at our Modesto dental office, depending on the cause of your temporomandibular joint disorder. Surgery is sometimes required, but is quite rare for most patients. Typically, patients at Downey Park Family Dental can resolve their TMJ/TMD with:

  • Lifestyle changes & physical therapy – In some cases, lifestyle changes can be very helpful for TMJ/TMD. For example, if you grind your teeth and this contributes to your TMJ/TMD, taking steps to de-stress and avoid clenching your mouth can help with TMJ/TMD.

    Physical therapy including jaw stretches and exercises sometimes may also be recommended, and can be helpful when recovering from TMJ/TMD.
  • Oral appliance therapy – This type of treatment uses a specially-made “oral appliance,” which looks sort of like a night guard for teeth grinding. This appliance is built to shift your jaws into a healthier position when you sleep, promoting healing of your temporomandibular joint. Along with medications like muscle relaxants, lifestyle changes and physical therapy, this may be enough to resolve TMJ/TMD. 

What Causes TMJ/TMD?

The exact cause of TMJ/TMD, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is not clear, but certain risk factors seem to be associated with TMJ/TMD which cause strain on your jaw or jaw muscles. Common causes of this strain include bruxism (teeth grinding), arthritis, injury, abnormalities in the joint, and muscle spasms.

Generally, trauma or excessive strain on the jaw or muscles in the jaw has the effect of damaging the joint, causing pain in the jaw as well as the head, ears, and teeth. In other cases, connective tissue diseases can cause problems with the temporomandibular joint. 

Habitually grinding or clenching the teeth puts you at high risk for developing TMJ/TMD. The problem is that many patients do this unconsciously when they are asleep. Patients may go for years grinding their teeth at night without being aware of it. 

It is usually only brought to their attention when a partner or someone else sleeping in the same room informs them that they are grinding their teeth at night. Wearing a mouthguard can greatly reduce your risk of developing TMJ/TMD by acting as a cushion between your teeth to prevent damage and excessive pressure.

If you suffer from pain behind the eyes or in the head, limited jaw mobility, sore teeth, ringing in the ears, popping sounds when you open and close your mouth, a stiff neck, or difficulty swallowing, these could be signs of TMJ/TMD. 

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should come in for a checkup at Downey Park Family Dental in Modesto. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Corey Acree, contact us at (209) 529-0674 or book online.

How Is TMJ Diagnosed?

A diagnosis can be made from observing the jaw for signs of pain, tenderness, and clicking sounds. The dentist can measure the range of motion in the jaw to check that it is opening and closing properly without locking. 

Tests in the form of plain radiographs, MRIs, and CT scans can be taken. A radiograph will display an image of your jaw and temporomandibular joints to look for signs of dental trauma or other abnormalities. An MRI will show any changes in the TMJ disc and if there is joint dysfunction.

However, there are no standard tests or criteria for diagnosis. An oral exam and other tests may be conducted to look for signs and symptoms that suggest the presence of TMJ/TMD. Your Modesto dentist can feel around your jaw to check for tenderness and pain, or look at and listen to how your jaw moves, while imaging tests can reveal more detailed information about what is going on in the joints and TMJ disc. 

If necessary, we may refer you to an oral surgeon that specializes in maxillofacial surgery. A maxillofacial surgeon is specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions or trauma that affect the head, neck, jaw, and face. They can correct a misaligned jaw that contributes to TMJ/TMD.

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