TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a "clicking" sound, you'll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. These symptoms occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles (muscles of mastication) do not work together correctly. TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint, which is the name for each joint (right and left) that connects your jaw to your skull. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important.
No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and treatment takes time to become effective. Dr. Lee specializes in the surgical management of TMJ disease. He can help you have a healthier and more comfortable jaw.
Trouble with Your Jaw?
TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking or grating noise when you open your mouth or trouble opening your mouth wide.
There are various treatment options that Dr. Lee can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, Dr. Lee will determine the proper course of treatment. CT scans and MRI’s may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis of a TMJ disorder. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care joined with professional care.
Your treatment team may consist of your dentist, your surgeon, pain management specialist, and a psychologist or psychiatrist to nurture you through this trying experience. The initial goals are to relieve the muscle spasm, joint pain, and habits that aggravate the TMJ. This is usually accomplished with an anti-inflammatory and sleep medication.
Stress management techniques such as biofeedback or physical therapy may also be recommended, as well as a temporary, clear plastic appliance known as a splint. A splint or nightguard fits over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep your teeth apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A nightgaurd helps you stop clenching or grinding your teeth and reduces muscle tension at night and helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relives pressure on parts of your jaw and aids in disk repositioning. It may be worn 24 hours/day to help your jaw heal.
If your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit together, you may need treatment such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction, or restorative dental work. Surgical options such as arthrocentesis and condylotomy are sometimes needed. Surgery is reserved for severe cases.
As of July 2011, Dr. Lee is not currently accepting new TMJ patients.