Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder can cause significant, chronic jaw pain. This discomfort, combined with other symptoms, can take a huge toll on your quality of life. The experts at Palmetto Family and Cosmetic Dentistry use advanced techniques to provide effective TMJ disorder treatment. At our Sumter, SC, offices, oral splints are one of the most common options. These devices can alleviate pressure on your jaw joints to reduce inflammation and stop clenching and grinding. Dr. Thaddeus H. Vincent, Jr., Dr. David M. Van Patten, and Dr. William T. “Buddy” Noonan, Jr. are all highly experienced in the treatment of TMJ disorder. When you visit our practice, our team can provide a definitive diagnosis and create a unique and effective treatment plan.

What Is TMJ Disorder?

An illustrated representation of tmj disorder

TMJ disorder affects the joints located on each side of your jaw near your ears. Because you use the joints so often, the area can often suffer structural damage. For instance, the soft interior discs that cushion the joints may slip out of place. When this occurs, the two sides of your joint will grind together painfully. In other cases, the soft tissue surrounding the joints may become inflamed.

Though daily actions alone, such as chewing and speaking, can lead to TMJ disorder, there are several other factors that may increase your risk. Bruxism, or chronic teeth grinding, is one of the most common causes. Many of our patients experience an increase in grinding when they are stressed. The constant pressure can seriously damage your TMJs. In other instances, dental damage can affect your jaw health. If you have worn or missing teeth, your teeth will no longer line up properly. As a result, your bite will be imbalanced, which, in turn, could inflame the jaw joints. Dental damage can also increase your risk for bruxism.

Diagnosing the Condition

Frequently, your dentist can diagnose TMJ disorder based largely on your symptoms. Signs of this disorder may include:

  • Jaw pain and tenderness
  • A popping or clicking noise when you move your jaw
  • Jaw stiffness or an inability to open your mouth all the way
  • Ear pain
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in your ears
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Chronic headaches

To provide a conclusive diagnosis, your dentist will also conduct a complete exam. He will observe your jaw movement and feel for significant inflammation or swelling. He may also take x-rays or digital scans of your jaw. Finally, he will inquire about your daily routine, posture, and diet.

Treatment Options

After your exam, your dentist will have all the information he needs to create a unique and effective treatment plan. In most cases, we will use oral splints to treat TMJ disorder. Your device will be custom-designed from dental impressions, and it will fit comfortably over your front teeth. When you wear it, typically only at night, it will exert a slight pressure on your lower jaw to push it forward. This will realign your joints to relieve pressure.

If bruxism is the root cause of your TMJ disorder, your dentist may provide an oral splint that will also stop teeth grinding. In some cases, he can provide a night guard instead. This type of guard will simply keep your teeth from touching without altering the alignment of your bite.

After your exam, your dentist will have all the information he needs to create a unique and effective treatment plan.

Alternatively, we may recommend restorative dentistry either as a standalone treatment or along with an oral appliance. For instance, if missing teeth have affected your jaw alignment, your dentist may recommend a bridge or dental implants. On the other hand, if you have suffered tooth erosion, or if you have unusually shaped teeth, crowns may be appropriate.

Finally, you may benefit from anti-inflammatory medications, especially to alleviate initial discomfort. After swelling and inflammation subsides, you may respond to subsequent treatment more effectively.

The Importance of Treating TMJ Disorder

Whichever treatment you ultimately receive, our care can have tremendous benefits. Without appropriate attention, your jaw pain could worsen, becoming severe and even debilitating. In some cases, the pain and ringing in your ears could even affect your sense of hearing. Pronounced jaw stiffness may affect your ability to eat, and you may have a much more limited diet. Fortunately, with our treatment, you could enjoy significant pain relief, complete oral function, and a healthy diet.

Contact Us for the Care You Need

If you are suffering from the symptoms of TMJ disorder, do not delay treatment. Contact our office today to book your diagnostic consultation.