Dentists use a wide range of treatments to manage TMJ Disorders, from drug therapy with muscle relaxants to surgery. Other components of treatment programs for TMJ Disorders include soft-food diets, massage, moist heat applications, bite adjustments, bite appliances, physical therapy, and relaxation exercises. Some common methods of treating TMJ Disorders are:
Elimination of spasm and pain
Using the comfort laser, Dr. Werleman can relieve muscle spasms and relax your muscles, allowing the jaw joint to regain its natural position.
What can also be done is applying moist heat to the face with exercises, using prescribed muscle relaxants or other medications, massaging the muscles, and eating soft, non-chewy foods. Bite plates or occlusal (bite) splints may be required to relax the muscles, to decompress the jaw joints, and to protect the teeth. This appliance, known as a “M.O.R.A.”, is a Mandibular Orthopedic Repositioning Appliance and may be used full-time daily, nightly, or in some combination to help the muscles relax.
Counseling or biofeedback/relaxation training
Many times, counseling is used along with other forms of treatment. If emotional stress is the factor that causes clenching or grinding of the teeth, that stress should be reduced or eliminated. Biofeedback can also be helpful in reducing muscle tension in the neck, jaws, and face. Physical therapy, nutritional supplementation, life-style guidance, and coping skills may help.
Changes in lifestyle and harmful habits
TMJ therapy may include improvements in nutrition, fluid intake, sleep hygiene, and daily exercise; special jaw and neck exercises may also be prescribed for your condition. It is important to avoid stressful neck positions at work and home. Posture training and breathing training may be needed, as may avoiding harmful habits such as overly-aggressive chewing, hard foods, and gum chewing. Gum chewing should always be avoided to minimize trauma to the TM joints and stress on the muscles.
Correcting the way the teeth fit together
If your bite is incorrect or uneven, it can be adjusted by selective bite adjustment of the teeth. Orthodontic appliance (braces) and other dental procedures may also be used to reduce problems caused by incorrect tooth contact (improperly aligned teeth). Correction of the problem can involve treating the bite of one or of several teeth. Correction can also involve braces or surgery to move all the teeth into a bite position that properly supports the joints and muscles of the face.
A MORA, or bite splint, may be used to help diagnose a bite problem, aid in healing of the joints and muscles, and provide long-term support of the joints and muscles in the correct position. The MORA may be initially worn full-time, out only to eat and clean, for diagnosis and to aid in initial healing. After initial (Phase I) therapy, it may be worn nightly and full-time during periods of stress. All or some of the above treatments will likely be employed in combination for both short-term healing and long-term maintenance of health. Both short-term and long-term treatment will also likely involve support of other health professionals and “adjunctive “lifestyle changes.