From the outside, looking in, the jaw might seem like a pretty simple body part. It opens and closes, helping us to tear into sandwiches, sing a song, or yawn. Many people are surprised to learn that the jaw is actually a very sophisticated system of joints, muscles, ligaments, and cartilage that must work together around the clock in order to accomplish a wide range of tasks.
The truth is that an unhealthy jaw joint can complicate our lives to such a tremendous degree, that we must sometimes resort to oral surgery in order to resolve the problems. Known as the TMJ (temporomandibular joint), and located just in front of each ear, disorders of the jaw joint can make a simple meal unbearable.
Many patients may notice headaches, neck pain, popping, clicking, and stiffness in light of a TMJ disorder. It’s a condition that can be aggravated by clenching or grinding the teeth together, an injury, poor tooth alignment, or arthritis. For some patients, the symptoms will occur occasionally, and for others, more frequently. In most cases, the related discomfort can become progressively worse, and seeking the advice of an oral surgeon early can reduce or eliminate the necessity of surgery.
In fact, oral surgery is often the last treatment solution, only being recommended in the most severe cases, or when no other treatment method has been successful. Before resorting to surgery, your oral surgeon will assess your condition to determine the cause of the disorder. If the muscles are found to be the cause of your discomfort, you might be advised to use muscle relaxants, relaxation exercises, or steroids for relief.
A custom mouthguard or a similar appliance might also be recommended to properly position that jaw at night and prevent the damage that can be caused by grinding. The use of ice and/or heat may be helpful, and a soft diet is recommended to relieve joint strain.
Ultimately, TMJ disorders can be treated and controlled to prevent joint damage, pain, and dental problems, beginning with the most conservative treatment methods, and moving to more invasive solutions when necessary.
For a complete TMJ evaluation and a discussion about your treatment options, contact Northern Virginia Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery at 703-425-5010 today.