TMJ/TMD

Prevent Your Pain at the Source

When you think of dentistry, what comes to mind? Teeth? Gums? Cavities? Crowns? The usual. However, many folks don’t realize the mouth is made up of a network of complex structures including your teeth, gums, jawbone, jaw joint (TMJ) and the muscles and tendons that connect your jaw to your skull and neck. These structures must all work together in balance and harmony for optimum oral health and wellbeing. If there is any type of imbalance, it can create a lot of chronic pain and tension over time. At DeFelice Dentistry, we are a holistic dental practice, which means we carefully consider the delicate balance of these structures in determining the root cause of your pain. We don’t just want to treat your pain, we want to prevent it at the source. If you’re living with chronic orofacial pain, we have a solution for you at DeFelice Dentistry.

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What is TMJ/TMD

TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint, or the jaw joint. TMD stands for temporomandibular joint dysfunction and is used to describe any condition affecting the health of the jaw joint. To make things confusing, these two terms are often used interchangeably, and sometimes even called TMJD. For simplicity, we’ll use TMJ here to describe the joint as well as the dysfunction of the joint, as this is the most commonly used term.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Teeth grinding and clenching (bruxism)
  • Worn down teeth
  • Jaw popping, locking or clicking (lockjaw)
  • Jaw pain, soreness or stiffness
  • Chronic headaches or migraines
  • Chronic orofacial pain (face, jaw, head, neck)
  • Morning headaches

What causes TMJ?

TMJ can be caused by a number of factors, but one of the most common contributors is stress. We all hold stress in different parts of our bodies, but many of us hold it in our TMJ which manifests itself in the form of bruxism. We all know chronic stress is extremely detrimental to our overall health and well-being, but did you know it can also take a toll on your oral health, as well as the health of your head and neck?

Stress isn’t the only thing that causes TMJ. Any type of imbalance in the complex joint structure can cause problems. A traumatic injury can cause TMJ. Malocclusion or misaligned teeth, as well as missing teeth, can also cause TMJ dysfunction.

TMJ & Sleep Apnea

What does your TMJ have to do with sleep apnea? More than you might think. In fact, TMJ and bruxism are some of the primary indicators of a larger problem with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). When your airway collapses during sleep with OSA, the body’s first natural response is to shift the lower jaw forward to open it back up. This constant movement of the jaw causes teeth grinding and clenching, and TMJ dysfunction. If you’re suffering from TMJ, we will want to test you for sleep apnea to ensure we are not just treating your symptoms, but getting to the root cause of the problem. The last thing we want to do is give you a band-aid, we want to give you a preventive solution. Click here to learn more about sleep apnea and how we can help you find a comprehensive treatment option that fits your needs.

Why do more women suffer from TMJ than men?

  • Women are more likely to seek treatment
  • Women taking hormonal contraceptives are more likely to report TMJ
  • Hormone receptors found in the TMJ of female baboons not found in males
  • Women in their childbearing years make up the majority of TMJ sufferers (STRESS!)
  • Slight differences in physical structure of the jaw joint
  • Women more likely to suffer from arthritis, which is linked to TMJ

What are my treatment options?

If you’re suffering from TMJ, you don’t have to grin and bear it! Your individual treatment plan will depend on the severity of your case and your individual needs, but we have several options to get you the relief you deserve.

  • If your TMJ is mild, we may recommend at-home therapy methods including massage and pressure point therapy, cold compress, and minor stretching and awareness practices. You should avoid chewing gum or engaging in activity that puts stress on your TMJ.
  • If your TMJ is mild to moderate, we can create a custom night guard to minimize the damage and prevent excessive stress and grinding overnight. Many patients have found a tremendous amount of relief by using a simple night guard during sleep.
  • If your TMJ is moderate to severe, and we have been unsuccessful with other treatment methods, you may need surgery to correct the joint itself.
  • We can also use Botox® injections to block the nerve signals to the brain that cause the muscle contractions that are causing your pain. Botox® has been successfully clinically tested and approved to treat bruxism and TMJ.
  • If your TMJ is caused by sleep apnea, we can create a custom oral appliance that gently shifts the lower jaw forward and keeps your airway open, and prevents clenching and grinding.

Get the Pain Relief You Deserve

Schedule a consultation with Dr. DeFelice today!

Contact Us

If you have any questions about TMJ/TMD or would like to schedule a visit with your Spokane dentist, Dr. DeFelice at DeFelice Dentistry, give us a call today or request an appointment online! We are happy to provide quality dental care for our patients from Spokane, Spokane Valley, Airway Heights, Country Homes, Fairwood, Geiger, and beyond.

DeFelice Dentistry

4703 N. Maple St.
Spokane, WA 99205
Call (509) 850-0918
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Monday - Thursday 7:30 am - 5:00 pm
Friday* 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

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Our doctors are general dentists providing orthodontic services.

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