Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Treatment  Q & A

If you have jaw pain or a problem with your TMJ, then you probably have questions about it. Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders can help. Here’s a Q & A about TMJ disorder and how to address it! We have 10 TMJ clinic locations. We serve patients from all over the USA in Bloomington IL, Peoria – Dunlap IL, Lafayette IN, Mishawaka IN, Columbia MO, Kansas City MO, Albuquerque NM, Brewster NY, El Paso TX and Wausau WI.

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Treatment
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Treatment

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Treatment (Also known as TMJ)

Jaw pain and TMJ disorder can be more complicated than you may be thinking. It can be confounding for a person experiencing the issue and it can even be difficult for professionals to fully understand, diagnose and treat the condition. Patients and some medical professionals alike might have questions about TMJ disorder. At Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders, we are here to help! Check out our Q & A about TMJ disorder and details about treatment! Let’s start with who you should speak with if you have jaw pain or if you suspect TMJ disorder.

What is the best doctor for TMJ disorder and jaw pain?

For jaw pain, any kind of TMJ issue, or TMJ disorder (TMD), the best doctor to see is a dentist who has extensive knowledge and experience in the overall care of oral health, the temporomandibular joint, dental occlusion and associated oral structures. This kind of medical professional is fully capable of interpreting jaw-joint-related symptoms and determining what could be causing them. A TMJ doctor will understand the symptoms you are troubled with and the root cause of the TMJ disorder itself.

It may be that the cause of your symptoms is a microtrauma such as an unhealthy habit like nail biting. Or maybe your symptoms followed a macrotrauma such as a car accident or a serious blow to the jaw. The first and best treatment for you could be as simple as a non-surgical neuromuscular orthotic. A TMJ doctor is a dentist especially capable of helping you and you’ll find TMJ professionals at a clinic like ours. When TMJ disorder is affecting all aspects of your wake and sleep, a sleep and TMJ disorder clinic like ours is especially capable of helping!

Is TMJ a medical or dental problem?

This is a great question, and the answer is that TMJ disorder, or TMD, could be considered one or the other, or both! But generally, it’s considered a medical problem. At Koala® Center For Sleep and TMJ Disorders, we bill medical insurance on behalf of our patients.

The one quality every TMD case has in common is that there is a dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This is the joint just in front of the ear on either side of your jaw, where the lower jaw attaches to the skull through muscles and tendons. There could be an underlying medical or dental problem causing the disorder, like arthritis or teeth damage, and it may be that aging or genetics is a factor also. However, what is certain is that the muscles, nerves and joints are not in a restful position. This causes muscle strain, cramping and pain which extends not only to the jaw, but to headaches, tingling in the fingertips and issues with the eyes and ears. TMD is a bit complicated, with different underlying causes and different contributing factors, but one of our professionals will provide a thorough consultation and exam, and we’ll be able to provide you with a better answer as to what kind of problem you’re having and how to correct it.

What are the symptoms of TMJ disorder?

A person with TMJ disorder will experience symptoms like:

  • Facial pain and tenderness
  • Jaw joint pain
  • Pain and strain in the neck and shoulders
  • Tooth pain and sensitivity
  • Diminished enamel and worn down teeth
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Swelling of the face
  • Frequent headaches
  • Pain in the ears
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Congestion in the ears
  • Jaw popping and clicking sounds
  • Temperature sensitivity
  • Swallowing problems
  • And/or many other seemingly unrelated issues

If you’re experiencing any of those issues or if your child is, then it might be a case of TMJ disorder, and you should speak with a professional about it. The symptoms may come and go or worsen in certain circumstances. But there is hope. We can help!

What causes TMJ to flare up?

Your jaw pain or TMJ disorder symptoms likely flare up due to stress, tension or dysfunction in your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Your dysfunction or tension may be due to a prior injury, teeth misalignment, a bad habit like teeth grinding, jaw clenching, arthritis, or another related issue. In some cases, even stress or hormonal changes can cause TMJ pain and flare-ups. A TMJ doctor can identify what’s causing your pain or disorder and what aggravates it.

What happens if a TMJ Disorder (TMD) is left untreated?

It’s definitely important to treat TMD. If a case of the disorder is left untreated, the pain and other symptoms can worsen, and so can the underlying condition causing the disorder. It can eventually lead to joint inflammation and damage, where a patient’s jaw would lock either in the open or closed position. Patients with untreated TMD may also have poor sleep quality that is a direct result of increasing pain and psychological stress. Insomnia can improve with TMD is treated. Additionally, improper jaw positioning that forces the lower jaw back toward the throat causes many patients who suffer from TMD to also suffer from an obstructed airway resulting in a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. In turn, sleep apnea can lead to daytime tiredness, irritability and brain fog or concentration problems. It increased your risk of illness and injury including life-threatening conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. These complications, though, can be prevented if proper testing and treatment are provided.

How do you test for TMJ disorder?

There are different methods for testing for TMJ disorder. The first step is for a professional like one of ours at Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders to do a complete consultation where they review your health history, examine the patient’s jaw, observing range of motion, and then evaluate pain and other symptoms. After, if the professional deems it necessary, they can provide a dental X-ray, a CT scan, an MRI, or 3-dimensional imaging. This will give the professional a better view of what’s going on inside the jaw joint and around it. Many of our patients have been to numerous other specialists seeking help for their symptoms with no lasting relief. Once their root cause is identified and treated, we have seen patients relieved of issues that have plagued them for years. We’d be honored to provide such testing and treatment for you at our clinic.

How do you treat TMJ disorder?

Professional treatment is necessary for management of TMD. It could be that the only treatment you need is to do simple TMJ exercises and stretches that a professional can easily teach you. These activities can relieve symptoms in the short or long term, so they can help you during a flare-up or help manage your pain and other symptoms indefinitely. In some patient cases, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is employed as a non-pharmaceutical pain reliever and swelling reducer. But if you want the most effective solution for your TMJ disorder, you’ll want to consider an oral appliance called a neuromuscular orthotic.

Oral appliance therapy is very simple to use, so it’s easy to begin and commit to. The therapy includes a comfortable, custom-made neuromuscular orthotic that a patient wears over the lower teeth at night and initially during the day except when eating and brushing the teeth and orthotic. Daytime wear is important while healing the joint. Everytime the back teeth come together to swallow and meet in the hurtful position, the orthotic prevents the constant strain of a bad bite.

At night, the orthotic protects the teeth from jaw clenching and grinding and places the jaw in a more comfortable, open position which prevents overclosure strain and night teeth grinding. As the jaw joint heals in the true rest position, where the muscles, nerves and joints are in harmony, we will continue to see the patient in the office for minor adjustments to the orthotic. Some patients find significant relief almost immediately. When fully adjusted, the orthotic should successfully treat the symptoms of TMJ disorder and the patient will continue to wear at night, and during times of future flare ups during the day as well. The neuromuscular orthotic really is easy to use and maintain. We understand how debilitating TMJ symptoms can be and how to effectively treat TMJ disorders.

What is the most effective treatment for TMJ disorder?

The most effective treatment, non-surgical treatment is oral appliance therapy, and here’s why: After about three months of doing the therapy, many patients will be 90% symptom-free. This is even more significant if the TMJ disorder or problem is exacerbating a condition like obstructive sleep apnea.

What if I have both TMJ disorder and Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

TMJ disorder and obstructive sleep apnea should be treated simultaneously for best results. The patient would wear the neuromuscular orthotic during the day, and an oral sleep appliance at night. Oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea is indeed proven and approved by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as a first line of treatment for mild and moderate obstructive sleep apnea. It can also be used in severe cases where the patient refuses to wear a CPAP, or where the CPAP is non-effective. It involves a different type of appliance that one wears during sleep preventing the lower jaw and tongue from falling back toward the throat during sleep causing a blockage of the airway. It’s also recommended by our TMJ doctors here at Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders.

If you or someone you love is suffering from a TMJ or sleep apnea problem, why wait any longer? You can receive testing, and possibly get treated with oral appliance therapy. The first step is only a phone call away.

How can I learn more about TMJ disorder or get help with my TMJ disorder?

If you or someone you love has any kind of TMJ-related issue and you’d like to learn more about it or get care, reach out to us here at Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders. We can tell you a bit more over the phone or get you in for a consultation with one of our TMJ doctors.

Our clinic has TMJ doctors at our locations in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin. Please see our Locations page for the clinic location closest to you, its address and contact information, then give us a call at that location.

If you’d prefer to, you can call our main office headquarters at (855) 977-0400 or request an appointment to book your consultation with us online. We’d be happy to see you or a loved one, and we’ll be even happier once we’ve helped you with your issue!

We hope you’ve found this Q & A helpful, and we look forward to seeing you soon here at Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders!