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TMJ Specialist

Katharine Christian, DMD -  - Dental Sleep Medicine

Snoring & Sleep Apnea Center

Katharine Christian, DMD

Dental Sleep Medicine located in Belltown, Seattle, WA

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders affect 5-12% of all adults, but they affect women twice as often as men. At Snoring & Sleep Apnea Center, Katharine Christian, DMD, has personal experience with TMJ disorders, extensive professional training in TMJ problems, and has helped many patients overcome this painful condition. If you develop jaw pain or clicking, don’t wait to get relief; call the office in Seattle, Washington, or connect using the online booking feature today.

TMJ Q & A

What are TMJ disorders?

Your temporomandibular joints are located on both sides of your face where your lower jaw meets your skull. These joints allow your jaw to open and close your mouth. The joints also slide, which enables side-to-side movement in the jaw.

You have a TMJ disorder when any problem affects the joint. The problems most often responsible for TMJ disorders fall into three categories:

  • Myofascial pain involving the muscles controlling the jaw
  • Internal derangement due to joint injury or a displaced disc
  • Degenerative and inflammatory disorders

You can have one, two, or all three problems at the same time.

What causes TMJ disorders?

The most common causes of TMJ disorders include:

  • Arthritis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Misaligned jaw
  • Acute jaw injuries
  • Teeth grinding

Connective tissue diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus can also lead to TMJ disorders.

What symptoms occur if I have TMJ disorders?

Pain, the most common symptom of a TMJ disorder, most often affects your jaw. But you can also develop pain in your temples, cheeks, neck, back, and teeth.

You may also experience:

  • Jaw clicking or popping
  • Sore jaw muscles
  • Muscle spasms
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Recurrent headaches
  • Earaches
  • Dizziness

In severe cases, your jaw may lock, making it difficult or impossible to open and close your mouth.

How are TMJ disorders treated?

Your provider at Snoring & Sleep Apnea Center performs a comprehensive oral exam to rule out other possible problems and confirm you have a TMJ disorder. Then they create an individualized plan based on the specific problem.

Your treatment may include:

Self-care

You may need to follow a soft diet or limit chewing for a short time. Using moist heat relaxes tight muscles. Your provider may recommend avoiding movements that stress the joint such as yawning, singing, and yelling. They may also teach you exercises to stretch and relax the jaw.

Medications

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help relieve your pain. If you have severe pain, your provider may prescribe muscle relaxants or recommend other options such as steroids.

TMJ appliances

Wearing a dental appliance while you sleep protects your teeth from grinding. Your provider may also recommend a stabilization splint or mouth guard to reduce pressure on your jaw, ease muscle tension, and maintain normal alignment.

If you develop jaw pain, call Snoring & Sleep Apnea Center, or book an appointment online.