does tmj mean surgery?

I’m 27 years old and have been dealing with a significant amount of jaw pain. I did some research online and it sounds like I may have TMJ. Everything I read says the treatments for this are jaw reconstruction or having all your teeth re-made. That sounds terrifying to me. In fact, I’m a little too scared to see a dentist about it in case they say that is what I need. Are there any other options? What happens if I just don’t treat it and just deal with the pain with medications?

Morgan

Dear Morgan,

close up of temporomadibular joint
TMJ disorder has various causes and solutions

Before you panic, let me assure you there are many causes and solutions for TMJ Disorder. As you can see from the image above, your TMJ joint is similar to your knee joint. It has movable parts and a disc which serves as a buffer. There are also lots of muscles that help with the various movements requisite to good jaw function. This is known as the temporomandibular joint (hence the TMJ).

Treatments like full-mouth reconstruction or jaw surgery are for the most severe cases, usually after years of going without treatment or a tragic accident. It doesn’t sound like that is what you’re dealing with.

The first step to any treatment is a diagnosis of what is causing the problem in the first place.

Two Causes for TMJ Disorder

One common cause for this is pressure you’ve put on the jaw joint. This is done through clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth. This often happens without a patient even realizing it because they do it in their sleep.

If you get treatment for this early on, before too much damage is done, there is no invasive treatment. It can often be handled simply by wearing a night guard to protect your teeth and add some cushion to assist with the pressure on your jaw.

Another cause is misalignment of your bite. Our teeth shift over time. It could be that yours have shifted in a way that has caused pressure on your jaw.

In some cases, this can be fixed with orthodontics such as Invisalign. Other, more severe cases, will require a full-mouth reconstruction. This latter treatment can also happen if you don’t get teeth grinding under control and your teeth get worn down to nubs.

Full-Mouth Reconstruction

With this procedure a dentist has to crown all of your teeth. This is either because they are too worn down from grinding or your bite is so far out of alignment this is necessary to repair it.

This is quite an advanced procedure and would require a dentist with significant training in TMJ Disorders as well as cosmetic dentistry.

Look for a dentist who trained at one of the following:

  • Dawson Academy
  • J.D Pankey Institute
  • The Las Vegas Institute of Advanced Dental Studies

This will take care of their TMJ qualifications. To find out if they’re also a great cosmetic dentist, go to the mynewsmile.com website to see if they’re recommended . They pre-screen cosmetic dentists for both their technical skill and artistry.

This blog is brought to you by New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.