Do you ever notice pain or discomfort around your jaw, particularly when undertaking activities that involve opening your mouth wide, such as eating or speaking loudly? Do you find it difficult to open your mouth wide at all? Does it sometimes feel like your jaw is “stuck” in a given position? Perhaps you notice clicking or grating noises coming from the area of your jaw when speaking or eating.
If any of this sounds familiar, then you may have a temporomandibular joint disorder. TMD, also known as TMJ, is an uncomfortable condition that can result in all the aforementioned symptoms and more. If you believe that you have this condition, then you should talk to an oral care professional about your treatment options. A dentist will typically be the first specialist to examine you for TMD. Typically, they will refer you to another specialist depending on your diagnosis.
Discuss the options with your oral surgeon
Methods for treating TMD may vary. For some, the discomfort is minor enough that they can address the issue with over-the-counter pain medication, ice packs, and similar remedies. They can also benefit from relaxation techniques, which may help to reduce some of the tension that would otherwise exacerbate the problem.
In other instances, a dentist may recommend prescription medication, minor dental work (such as braces), or a splint/night guard to address the issue.
However, there are cases in which these methods do not sufficiently correct the disorder. If your case of TMD is particularly bothersome, then oral surgery may be necessary.
Of course, it’s understandable if you’re not looking forward to the prospect of undergoing this kind of procedure. That’s why you should discuss your concerns with an oral surgeon. They’ll help you to better understand how proper surgical treatment could prove beneficial.
There isn’t one particular procedure used to correct this disorder. An oral surgeon will assess your condition and determine which procedure is necessary.
Improve your quality of life
That said, it’s important to understand that deciding to move forward with surgery can have a major impact on your quality of life in the long term. According to one recent study, approximately 90% of patients who undergo surgery to correct TMD experience significantly less pain following treatment. On top of that, the study highlighted outcomes from four different types of procedures. Each procedure yielded essentially the same positive results.
The patients who participated in the study had also been diagnosed with severe TMD. The pain they experienced on a daily basis made simple tasks, such as eating solid foods, extremely difficult. That means there is hope if TMD causes you to experience intense discomfort.
Many people who undergo surgery to correct this disorder also experience a relatively short recovery time. Of course, no one can guarantee how long your recovery may take. Many different factors can impact the overall time frame. That said, for minor TMD surgery, patients are often able to resume their basic daily activities within 48 hours. For more involved surgery, a one- or two-night stay in the hospital may be necessary to ensure that medical professionals can monitor your condition. Before you go home, your oral surgeon will typically provide you with instructions to maximize your comfort and safety during the recovery period. Again, this is a period when you should feel free to ask any questions that you may have. The oral surgeon will aim to ensure that you thoroughly understand how to care for yourself during the recovery period.
Boost your overall health
Undergoing surgery for TMD does not merely alleviate your discomfort. It can also contribute to better overall health.
For example, some people with TMD do not consume enough nutrients because eating is so painful for them that they try to avoid it. This can have serious health consequences in the long run. By correcting the issue, you will be able to supply your body with the nutrients that it needs much more easily than if TMD was left unaddressed.
Protect your hearing
In addition, some people with TMD experience tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears that can be bothersome if it interferes with their sleep habits. Fortunately, patients who undergo treatment often find that tinnitus goes away after the procedure. Additionally, TMD can contribute to bruxism, or teeth grinding. This can damage your teeth over time. You can actually save money by undergoing surgery, as it will allow you to avoid the need for significant dental work in the future.
These are all reasons to take your oral surgeon’s recommendations seriously if they advise surgical treatment for TMD. Again, this may not be necessary. Your dentist will diagnose the condition and suggest treatment, which might not involve a surgical procedure. However, if other treatments prove ineffective, then moving forward with surgery can have a major, positive impact on your health and comfort.