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TMJ Therapy in Vienna, VA

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is joint where the temporal bones of the skull and lower jaw bone connect, just in front of the ear. This system includes bones, muscles, and tendons and moves whenever you open or close your mouth. The TMJ can easily become damaged due to excessive wear, trauma, or using the mouth in a way it wasn’t designed to do.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD, but most commonly referred to as TMJ, is a complex problem, but is often distinguished by the clicking or locking of the joint. If you experience muscle pain around the area in front of the ears or constantly grind your teeth (bruxism), call Dr. Ellenbogen in Vienna, VA, at (703) 734-1095. He can offer a consultation and evaluation of your jawbone and help restore the smooth working relationship of your jaw.

What Causes TMJ -Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

TMD can happen to anyone and at times, the underlying causes are not always obvious. However, some behaviors increase a patient’s risk of getting TMD. These include:

  1. Bruxism. This involves involuntary biting or clenching that usually happens while you are asleep or when no food is present in the mouth. It can occur during the day or the night, and generally gets worse with an increase in stress. The result is excessive strain on the temporomandibular joint and surrounding ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
  2. Trauma. Any strong force applied to your jaw can cause TMD. This trauma might come from an accident, getting hit or punched in the face, or striking your chin against something.
  3. Dislocation of the joint. If the TMJ gets dislocated, this will often result in TMD. Joint dislocation can be caused by trauma, or it can occur through bad habits like chewing on ice or hard, nonfood items.
  4. Malocclusion. The alignment of your teeth can result in improper forces on the jaw joints.
  5. Arthritis. The TMJ is also susceptible to arthritis. In these cases, the joint deteriorates due to excessive strain, poor health, or simply as a result of age.

What are the Symptoms of TMJ Disease?

While TMD can go unnoticed initially, the following symptoms often indicate a problem and can get worse if you do not seek treatment:

  1. Pain in the jaw area, particularly in front of and under the ears, which can radiate along the temples of the head or down the neck.
  2. Pain while moving the mouth to talk, chew, yawn, etc.
  3. Inflammation and swelling in the jaw area as well as in the neck.
  4. Lock jaw or difficulty opening or closing the mouth.
  5. Unusual clicking or popping noises when you move your mouth.
  6. Fatigue felt throughout the face and cheeks.
  7. Malocclusion or a poor bite position.

How Do I Prevent TMJ Disorders?

In some cases, you can remedy the symptoms of TMJ disorders with simple practices or conservative treatments. Some of these might include:

  1. Reducing stress where possible. Stress can be a major cause for teeth grinding and clenching. Find ways to unwind and get adequate sleep daily.
  2. Avoiding hard or extra chewy foods. Chewing hard candy, ice, crusty bread, or other hard foods can have an ill effect on the temporomandibular joint. Opt for softer foods that take less time to break up with your teeth.
  3. Avoiding extreme jaw movements. Opening the mouth too wide or moving the jaw constantly can trigger TMD. Consistent gum chewing also applies.
  4. Stop compressing the jaws. Resting your chin on your hands, cradling the phone between your chin and shoulder, as well as maintaining incorrect posture can all contribute to jaw tension. Do what you can to relax your muscles and avoid unnecessary pressure.

What Can the Dentist Do to Treat TMJ Disorder?

Though there is little Dr. Ellenbogen can do to treat the underlying cause of your TMD, he can offer you some treatment options to remedy your pain and prevent damage to your teeth. These solutions include:

  1. Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications to provide mild pain control and reduce swelling. However, if the pain becomes severe, contact Dr. Ellenbogen right away so he can prescribe stronger medications if necessary.
  2. Apply warm or cold compresses when your jaw is sore to aid in pain relief or reduce inflammation.
  3. Physical therapy and regular jaw massages can help relax the joint and further reduce pain. It can aid in re-aligning the jaw, if the problem stems from dislocation.
  4. Bite guards or splints can prevent the teeth from coming in contact with each other in ways that they shouldn’t, and thus, reduce pressure or strain on the jaw. Dr. Ellenbogen can provide a number of options to suit your unique needs.
  5. Orthodontics can help realign teeth and relieve unnecessary pressure on the jaw. Invisalign is a great option for patients looking to avoid the unsightly brackets of traditional braces.
  6. As a last resort, he might recommend surgery to reposition the lower jaw into a more ideal position against the upper jaw, but this is only suggested after he has tried less invasive treatment options first.

Choosing Dr. Ellenbogen for TMJ Disorder Treatment

Diagnosis is one of the most important factors in deciding on treatment. However, because there are so many contributing factors, a proper diagnosis is difficult. Dr. Ellenbogen will gather as much information as possible about your symptoms and any contributing factors before offering treatment solutions. That way he can provide the right procedures to treat the underlying problem instead of simply treating the resulting symptoms.

To discuss your TMJ pain further with Dr. Ellenbogen, call us at (703) 734-1095. Our friendly staff can schedule an exam right away!