AustinPUG Health

AustinPUG Health

676554 tmj dysfunction What Type Of Doctor Should I See For My TMJ? What is TMJ? Temporomandibular joint disorder, often referred to as TMD or TMJ, causes pain and problems in functioning of the joint and muscles in the jaw. The condition can range in severity from mildly annoying to debilitating. Mild symptoms include pain or stiffness in the jaw, face, or neck, and popping or cracking of the temporomandibular joint. Severe symptoms include limited movement, locking, or even displacement of the jaw.

If you think you might have TMJ, if the symptoms are mild, or if the symptoms began abruptly, you may want to try to treat the symptoms at home prior to seeking the advice of a doctor. Eat soft foods, limit use of the jaw, take over-the-counter pain relievers, and use hot or cold packs to reduce stiffness and pain. You might also try yoga or meditation to reduce stress and promote relaxation, as stress may cause tightening in the jaw. If symptoms don’t improve or if they become worse after a few days, you should see a physician to evaluate your symptoms.

The best doctor to see for first choice to diagnose and treat TMJ is an oral surgeon. These specialists are trained specifically in the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ. However, a recommendation is often required just to make an appointment with an oral surgeon. In this case, you should opt to see your dentist. If you don’t have a dentist or if you need a referral for one, you can start with a family physician. If TMJ is mild, you may be treated with pain medications and muscle relaxants. A physician or dentist may also prescribe certain types of antidepressants, called tricyclic antidepressants, for moderate pain. A bite guard or sedatives may be prescribed if TMJ is suspected to be exacerbated by jaw clenching or teeth grinding, especially at night. Counseling may be recommended to deal with pain or stress.

If symptoms don’t respond to conservative treatment, or if the TMJ is severe, you might be referred to a physical therapist or an oral surgeon, depending on the cause of your TMJ. A physical therapist can use an ultrasound with heat to relax and loosen muscles of the jaw, face, and neck. Exercises may be recommended to perform at home for muscles affected by TMJ. An oral surgeon may drain any fluid in the joint if there is inflammation. Corticosteroid injections are another option if the TMJ problem is in the joint. Surgery is another option, but should only be tried if all other treatment options are unsuccessful. If surgery is recommended, be sure to get a second opinion from another oral surgeon to see if there are other, less invasive options available that your doctor may not have considered.

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About the author: Peter Wendt is a freelance writer and researcher living in Houston, Texas.  As a teenager Peter suffered from chronic TMJ, and now he is watching his daughter deal with a similar problem.  After much research, Peter finally decided to consult a well-known TMJ specialist in Houston for advice.


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