If you are one of the approximately 35 million Americans who suffer from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), you may have already tried any number of methods to obtain relief from the jaw pain, migraines, and other uncomfortable side effects. While Botox injections, narcotic pain relievers, and massage may bring you some temporary relief, the pain may ultimately recur -- and even worsen. However, a prosthodontist (a type of dentist that specializes in oral reconstruction and surgery) may be able to provide you with some more significant and permanent relief. Read on to learn more about some prosthodontic treatments that can help you live a more normal (and pain-free!) life.
What types of prosthodontic treatments have been shown to effectively treat TMJ?
Although TMJ can have a number of causes, including some types of autoimmune disorders or untreated anxiety, problems with your bite or the alignment of your teeth can exacerbate the jaw pain caused by TMJ. By correcting your bite through the use of crowns, bridges, or even orthodontic braces, you may be able to significantly minimize the pain you experience.
- Dental crowns
A dental crown can be a useful treatment for TMJ if one or more of your teeth is cracked, worn down, or is otherwise unable to properly align with your other teeth. A crown adheres to your natural tooth and provides a firm, realistic-looking biting surface. Crowns are long-lasting and as durable as your natural tooth.
When your dentist installs a crown, he or she will first grind down the surface of your natural tooth so that the crown has a rough surface to adhere to. The dentist will then take impressions of your tooth and a temporary crown will be attached. Once the new crown has arrived, your dentist will remove the temporary crown and glue or otherwise affix the permanent crown to your natural tooth, creating a seamless and realistic appearance.
- Dental bridges
A dental bridge can be a good TMJ treatment option if you have more than one missing tooth. Sometimes called a "partial," the dental bridge is a series of one or more porcelain teeth that attach to your natural tooth on either side of the gap. Unlike crowns, most dental bridges can be easily removed for repair or replacement.
- Orthodontic braces
Some of the most severe and painful cases of TMJ occur when your upper and lower jaws do not quite align with one another when you bite down. This condition, called malocclusion, can generally be corrected easily through the use of orthodontic braces.
You may be able to opt for either traditional metal braces or clear plastic braces. In many cases, your dentist may recommend plastic braces as they can be more easily molded to your bite, as well as adjusted as your jaw alignment slowly changes. By wearing these plastic braces at night, you can also help avoid some of the teeth grinding and other complications that may result from TMJ.
What are some other pain management options for you to try?
Although the above treatments can be very effective on their own, they are often best suited for use in combination with another type of pain management. For example, if your dentist believes that the majority of your TMJ pain was caused by a misaligned bite, he or she may also recommend that you get periodic chiropractic adjustments of your neck and jaw to ensure that your new crown remains in the proper location.
Along with chiropractic adjustments, your prosthodontic dentist may recommend a change in diet or sleeping habits to help you achieve overall good health and a pain-free lifestyle. Go to sites like this one to find a prosthodontist near you.