As many Northern Virginia residents know, TMJ disorder is more than just an annoying popping sound that your jaw makes. Though some people find the problem is only temporary, others discover that their uncomfortable case of TMJ is so severe that medical intervention from Dr. Gocke is required.

What is TMJ Disorder?

The TMJ, medically known as the temporomandibular joint, is a sliding hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull. You have two jawbone joints – one on the right side of your face, and one on the left. Some Northern Virginia residents develop disorders of the TMJ, often resulting in popping sounds when one opens his or her mouth, or pain or discomfort that just won’t go away.

TMJ Symptoms

You might have a TMJ disorder if you experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Tenderness or pain in your jaw
  • Pain on one or both sides of your TMJ joints
  • An aching pain in and around your ear (when ear infection has been ruled out)
  • Finding it difficult or painful to chew food
  • Facial pain that aches
  • Finding that your jaw locks, making it difficult for you to open or close your mouth

When Does TMJ Disorder Need Medical Intervention from Dr. Gocke?

Many Northern Virginia residents have probably felt and heard their jaw pop at one time or another. But if you’re experiencing any of the persistent pain listed above, it’s time to get a medical examination from Dr. Gocke for a diagnosis and creation of a personalized treatment plan.

Diagnosing TMJ Disorders

When you visit Dr. Gocke complaining about continuing jaw pain and popping, he’ll perform a full evaluation, including:

  • Listening to and feeling the way your jaw functions when you open and close your mouth
  • Visually observing the range of motion you have in your jaw
  • Pressing on areas of your jaw to pinpoint the exact areas where you experience pain and discomfort

In some cases, additional tests may be required, including:

  • Dental X-rays that show both your teeth and jawbone
  • A CT scan to show the details of the bones that make up the TMJ joint
  • An MRI if joint disc or surrounding tissue problems are suspected

What Are the Risk Factors for Developing a TMJ Disorder?

Sometimes, Northern Virginia residents feel like TMJ just came out of nowhere. Other times, they have experienced known causes including:

  • A diagnosis of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis
  • An injury that damaged or affected the jaw
  • A long history of clenching or grinding the teeth
  • A diagnosis of certain connective tissue diseases

How is a Serious Case of TMJ Treated?

Many Northern Virginia residents are fortunate enough to have their case of TMJ go away on their own. Others will require medical intervention. This can range from medications (such as pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxers) therapies (including oral splints, mouth guards, or physical therapy) and in the most severe cases, corrective jaw surgery. The exact course of treatment you’ll need can only be determined once you have a proper diagnosis and are under the care of Dr. Gocke.

When Total Joint Replacement of the TMJ is Needed

Some patients have such a severe case of TMJ disorder, they require a total joint replacement of the TMJ. This typically occurs in individuals who:

  • Have significant joint deterioration resulting from a traumatic injury
  • Have osteoarthritis, which has severely affected the TMJ joint
  • Have experienced some other form of serious, irreparable damage to the joint

This surgery, which replaces the joint with a prosthetic, is intensive, and typically requires an overnight stay in the hospital, 2-3 weeks at home recovery period, and, in some cases, wiring the mouth shut during the healing process.

But it’s worthwhile.

Studies have shown that the total joint replacement of the TMJ surgery is very successful. Even 10 years post-op, many patients exhibit significant improvements in:

  • Range of motion of the mouth
  • Speech
  • Diet
  • Reduced pain achieved and maintained around 6 months post-op

Getting the Help You Need

If you’re a Northern Virginia resident experiencing persistent pain in your jaw, there’s no reason to grin and bear it. Visit Dr. Gocke at his Virginia Oral, Implant and Facial Surgery practice to determine if you have TMJ, and if so, what treatment options are appropriate for your case. You can schedule an appointment today by calling (703) 388-2805.