Treatment for Jaw Clicking, Popping, and TMJ Pain

TMJ disorders, or TMDs, are more common than people realize. TMJ is an abbreviation for temporomandibular joint, which is the joint that connects your lower jaw to the skull. You can easily feel these joints by placing your fingers in front of your ears then opening and closing your mouth. The joint allows your mouth to open, close, and move side to side.

Our surgeons at Southern Oral & Facial Surgery treat jaw pain and TMDs both surgically and nonsurgically. If you feel pain in the jaw joint or experience discomfort when yawning, talking, or chewing, we encourage you to contact our offices for a consultation.

Symptoms of a TMD

The most common symptom associated with a TMJ disorder is pain, popping, or clicking in the jaw joint. This can be caused when the small disc that cushions the joint slips out of position, or when the muscles surrounding the joint become inflamed or injured. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may have a TMJ disorder:

  • Pain in the facial muscles
  • Pain in the ears or the jaw joints
  • Difficulty biting or chewing foods
  • Grating, popping, or clicking sounds when opening and closing the mouth
  • Increased headaches, dizziness, hearing loss, or ear pain/ringing
  • Trouble opening the mouth all of the way

The cause of most TMJ disorders is not always clear, but to properly treat the problem, it is important to find an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who can properly diagnose the situation and develop a treatment plan for long-term recovery. Some people unintentionally grind their teeth during sleep. This can put tension on the jaw joint and lead to tenderness throughout the day.

TMJ disorders may arise from a number of conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Injury to the jaw or surrounding muscles
  • Excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth (bruxism)
  • Displaced or perforated disk in the joint

Treatment for TMJ Disorders

The initial goals of TMJ treatment are to relieve the muscle spasm and joint pain. Our offices use 3D scans to analyze the bones and soft tissue of the jaw joint. Nonsurgical treatment will always be considered first. This can include a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, or muscle relaxant. Steroids can also be applied to the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Often, ongoing self-care treatments are highly effective as well and may be included as a part of the treatment plan. Nonsurgical methods that may be helpful include:

  • Resting your jaw
  • Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
  • Eating soft foods
  • Applying ice and heat
  • Exercising your jaw
  • Practicing good posture

When nonsurgical methods fail to relieve pain and provide proper jaw function, surgery may be considered. Severe TMD cases may benefit from jaw surgery to align the jaws and joint. Arthrocentesis is a minimally invasive procedure in which your surgeon flushes the joint with saline to remove debris caused by inflammation. Prior to any type of treatment, we will discuss your options for anesthesia and determine the right choice for you.

No singular treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely, and treatment takes time to become effective. Our doctors will develop a treatment plan that allows you to have a more comfortable jaw and oral function. If you think you are experiencing TMJ disorder symptoms, contact Southern Oral & Facial Surgery Franklin or Thompson’s Station, TN to meet with one of our oral surgeons for a consultation.

Types of Anesthesia

There are several anesthesia options available so patients can feel comfortable and at ease during treatment.

A local anesthetic is administered in the specific surgical area and can be used in conjunction with other anesthetic options, such as nitrous oxide. The patient remains awake and only the surgical area is numbed, so the patient can still drive home after.

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is administered through a mask when patients experience anxiety before the procedure. It provides mild pain-relieving effects and induces a relaxed state. Your surgeon can pair laughing gas with local anesthesia.

IV sedation renders a sleep-like state in which patients do not feel pain. This is commonly used in dental implant placement and the removal of wisdom teeth. General anesthesia, which renders the patient unconscious, is reserved for complex procedures, such as facial trauma or jaw surgery.