Effective Treatments for Head, Neck and Jaw Pain

Do you experience chronic head, neck or facial pain? You may have a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), also referred to as TMJ disorder. This condition results when the temporomandibular joint that connects your jaw to your skull becomes misaligned. It is at least twice as prevalent in women than men, although men are still frequently affected by TMD. Overall, the prevalence for TMJ disorder is between 5 and 12%.

Interestingly, young people are more likely to be affected by TMJ disorder. However, you may be an older adult who has experienced head, neck and facial pain for years without realizing the true cause. Check your TMD symptoms below and learn more about your non-surgical TMJ treatment options in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Symptoms of TMD

TMD is measured by the type and duration of muscle, joint and facial pain. If you experience pain while speaking and chewing, you may have TMD. Do you have any of the following symptoms of TMD?

  • Pain and tenderness in the face, especially in the jaw joint. You may experience pain in your neck and shoulders, and even around your ears, whenever you chew speak or open your jaw wide.
  • Limited ability to open your mouth wide. Your jaws may get stuck or lock in an open or closed-mouth position.
  • You may hear clicking, popping or grating sounds in the jaw or jaw joint when you open or close your mouth. This may or may not be accompanied by pain.
  • You may feel as if your upper and lower teeth are not aligned properly and experience sudden pain when you chew.
  • Swelling on the side of the face or both sides of your face is another TMJ/TMD symptom.

It may be difficult for your friends and family to understand the debilitating effects of TMJ pain. They may suggest simply taking an over-the-counter pain reliever (as if you want to take 10 ibuprofens per day!) or even suggest that it’s all in your head. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Just like any other disorder that involves chronic pain, your TMJ pain needs to be treated by a doctor for long-lasting relief.

TMJ Disorder—Non-Surgical Treatment Options for TMD

The good news is, a TMJ dentist can treat your TMJ pain—and you probably will NOT require surgery! In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dr. Jeff S. Luffey, DDS, is a TMJ dentist who provides long-lasting TMJ pain relief. Non-surgical TMJ pain treatments include:

Stabilization or Bite Splint: The main treatment for TMD is the use of an oral appliance (similar to a mouth guard) that fits over the upper and lower teeth. The oral appliance allows your teeth to slide smoothly against each other, enabling the jaw muscles to relax. The splint prevents clenching and grinding, providing long-term pain relief. You will likely only need to wear your splint at night, but if your TMJ pain is severe, you may need to wear it 24 hours a day, except while you are eating.

Physical Therapy/Neuromuscular Dentistry: Through neuromuscular dentistry, your TMJ dentist can help you relax your muscles and increase the range of motion in the temporomandibular joint. Biofeedback and stretching exercises are among the methods Dr. Luffey uses to treat TMJ pain.

Medication: Anti-inflammatories and prescription muscle relaxants may be used to manage your TMJ pain. If your muscles are severely inflamed, they may be restricted in motion due to muscle spasms. Using medications can relax contracted muscles, giving you greater range of motion as you speak and chew.

Complementary Treatments: Treatment like yoga, meditation and acupuncture can help relieve some of your TMD symptoms. Stress may not cause TMD, but it certainly makes symptoms feel worse. By including relaxing wellness treatments in your regimen, you will likely feel additional relief of your TMJ pain.

Today, most dentists will explore every option available before recommending surgery. Dr. Luffey certainly does. In years past, too many patients affected by TMD were sent to surgery, but a 2002 study showed that those who had TMJ surgery were not better off than those treated with non-surgical techniques five years later.

Neuromuscular Dentistry: Aligning Your Bite to Relive Your TMJ Symptoms

Often, TMJ disorder is caused when your teeth, facial muscles and joints are out of alignment. If you are suffering from TMJ pain in Albuquerque, NM, Dr. Luffey can realign your jaw to relieve your pain. As a neuromuscular dentist, Dr. Luffey’s training allows him to look beyond the deeper causes of head and neck pain to treat your symptoms.

If you believe you have a misaligned bite and/or are experiencing TMJ pain, it is a common condition that can be treated by Dr. Luffey, an Albuquerque dentist. Contact Dr. Luffey to schedule a consultation at 505-294-4700, and start experiencing relief from your TMJ pain today!

Statistics for this blog provided by National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

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