Some of the common symptoms associated with TMJ disorders include difficulty or pain while biting and chewing, a mild, persistent pain in the mouth area, tender jaw, and headache or earache. But these symptoms do not make a conclusive diagnosis of TMJ.
The dentist will check the patient’s bite on marking paper to determine whether the bite alignment is faulty. In some cases, the dentist may also get a CT or MRI scan done to make a conclusive diagnosis of TMJ. An experienced dentist will be able to make a judgment about the disorder also by physical examination of the patient’s condition.
This may include feeling the joint muscles for soreness, pressing the face to check the areas that appear more sensitive or tender, listening and watching the jaw open and shut, and sliding the teeth from side to side to check the comfort level of the patient.
Treatment in most cases begins with minor, non-invasive therapies at first and then progresses to more complicated procedures if there is no resolution with conservative techniques.
Depending on the cause, treatment may involve orthodontics. The patient may have to wear braces to improve the teeth alignment. This can in turn help to improve the stability of TMJ. Other therapies include gentle stretching, relaxing and massaging of muscles in the jaw area. Moist hot or cold packs may be applied on the face, and stress-reducing, stretching exercises may also help to alleviate the pain.
There is another appliance called an NTI that helps to suppress clenching or grinding of the teeth in sleep. It works slightly differently than an occlusal guard that covers all teeth on one arch. NTI just fits over the front teeth, and it has a small ramp. When the patient bites down or clenches, only two teeth touch each other, and NTI feeds into a negative inhibition loop that causes the TMJ muscles to relax.