Your jaw is a vital part of your body, helping you eat, speak, smile, and perform everyday functions. However, your jaw can’t move on its own and operates with the help of your temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) refers to the muscles and tendons that connect your jaw to your skull, allowing it to open and close. Sometimes the joint is injured or damaged, leading to a painful condition called temporomandibular joint dysfunction or disorder (TMD).
At Smiles of Chevy Chase, Dr. Markogiannakis uses advanced equipment to diagnose and effectively treat your TMD to relieve painful symptoms. Your treatment will be based on the cause of your TMD and your specific condition, but some options include oral appliances (mouth or night guards), bite adjustment, dental restorations, and more. Keep reading to learn more about TMJ disorders and how our Chevy Chase dentist can help.
"I’ve been seeing Dr. Marko and her amazing team for 3 years now. I did my research when it came time to finding a new dentist after moving to DC, growing up in a dentist office caused me to have high standards. (And come on who actually enjoys the dentist?!) Well they blew all my expectations out of the park. They’re professional, thorough, informative, caring and very friendly. They always take the time to go above and beyond- even when I gave them the hardest time about finding the right material for my night-guard. Everyone (except me) had patience and reassurance through the whole process. They make every appointment a pleasant experience!"- A.M. / Google / May 28, 2020
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"Dr Marko worked on restoring my 3 front teeth. They were very weak and decayed. I could not bite into anything major for awhile. I was scared my teeth would tear. I am amazed how beautiful and strong my teeth are today. Really amazing !!! Thank you Dr. Marko for your skill set, diligence and patience with me. My smile is back and even better !!! Thank you for all your hard work ! 💪 Demitra"- D.M. / Google / May 09, 2020
"I love this dentist! Best experience I have evee, I’ve been going for 3 years and my kids love it there too. Professional, always on time and everyone is so pleasant to deal with. They really deserve this 5 star review. No hesitation at all in recommending!"- L.H. / Google / Mar 05, 2020
Causes of TMD
Common causes of TMD include:
- Bruxism (teeth grinding/ clenching)
- Trauma to the face or jaw
- Misaligned bite
- Dislocation of the TMJ joints
Symptoms of TMD
TMJ therapy from a trained professional like Chevy Chase dentist Dr. Markogiannkis is vital because TMD can affect more than just your jaw. It can also affect every part of your head, radiate out towards other parts of your body, and even affect your mental health. Symptoms of TMD include:
- Headaches/ Migraines
- Pain in the face, jaw joint, and/or the ear
- Neck/shoulder/back pain
- Jaw locking when the jaw is open or closed (Tetanus)
- Facial swelling
- Worn or cracked teeth
- Uncomfortable bite
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Clicking or popping in the jaw
- Restricted ability or complete inability to open the mouth without pain
- Sensitive, sore, and loose teeth
- Depression due to chronic pain
- Numbness or tingling of hands or arms caused by muscle spasms
- Excessive snoring or sleep apnea due to changes in jaw position
- Bad posture
These symptoms can vary in severity and if they don’t fade with time, they tend to get worse. If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, contact our Chevy Chase, MD dental office by dialing 301-652-0656. Dr. Markogiannakis offers effective methods for TMJ therapy that provide lasting relief.
TMJ Therapy Options
Oral Appliances (Mouth Guards & Night Guards)
Oral appliances are custom-made mouthpieces you can wear to help alleviate symptoms of TMD. We offer two kinds of oral appliances: mouth guards and nightguards. Mouth guards are worn during sports or other highly physical activities to protect your smile from trauma.
Night guards are worn while you sleep to realign your jaw, alleviating stress off of the temporomandibular joint. Night guards also help prevent your teeth from grinding, which can protect your smile and help alleviate symptoms of TMD caused by bruxism.
Bite Adjustment Treatments
Bite (occlusal) adjustment involves correcting the way your teeth sit when your mouth closes. A misaligned bite can contribute to TMD by triggering nerve signals, causing your jaw muscles to tense every time you bite down. Dr. Markogiannakis can correct your bite with orthodontic treatments like Invisalign®, which can alleviate pressure on your TMJ and allow the muscles to relax. In more severe cases, she may recommend orthognathic (jaw) surgery, but only if all other methods fail.
Problems with your teeth besides misalignment can also put stress on your TMJ and cause TMD. Other common issues that contribute to TMD include:
- Tooth decay
- Tooth loss
By repairing or replacing these teeth with dental restorations, Chevy Chase dentist Dr. Markogiannakis can help alleviate TMJ pain. Smiles of Chevy Chase offers numerous restorations to solve multiple dental issues including dental crowns, bridges, dentures, and more.
What To Expect From TMJ Therapy
To diagnose your TMD, Chevy Chase dentist Dr. Markogiannakis will carefully listen to and understand your concerns before performing a physical examination. During the exam, she’ll assess the movement of your jaw and check for signs of misalignment, teeth grinding, or jaw clenching. She’ll also feel the jaw and surrounding area for any tenderness and inflammation.
Dr. Markogiannakis may want to have digital X-rays of your lower face taken or a bite analysis to look for underlying causes that may determine your treatment method. Based on the exam, she will go over your treatment options which may include a dental appliance, orthodontics, or dental restorations.
Alternative TMJ Therapy Methods
Along with procedures to solve the underlying cause of your TMD, Dr. Markogiannakis can recommend other ways to relieve pain and other symptoms at home. This includes:
- Eating softer foods
- Avoiding chewing gum
- Avoiding biting your nails
- Heat and cold packs on your jaw
- Relaxation techniques
Our Chevy Chase dentist may also recommend exercises to strengthen your jaw or prescribe medicine to relax your jaw muscles and relieve pain, anxiety, or inflammation. You should continue to attend your follow-up visits to our dental office so Dr. Markogiannakis can check the progress of your TMJ therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if my TMJ therapy isn’t working?
If your TMJ therapy isn’t working, it may indicate an emotional or psychological problem, or an issue outside the realm of oral health. In that case, Dr. Markogiannkis may recommend a different approach, such as recommending you to a physical and/or mental health therapist.
Mental health therapists can help you resolve emotional and mental issues that could be causing the stress that contributes to your TMD. Physical therapists can evaluate and treat disorders of the body that may be causing your TMD through exercise, stretching, hands-on equipment, and other means. Combining dentistry alongside physical or mental health therapy may be exactly what you need for effective TMJ therapy.
Do muscle relaxers work for TMJ therapy?
Muscle relaxers may work to help alleviate stress and tension in your jaw. However, muscle relaxers are strong medications that affect more than just your jaw, and often come with serious side effects. Chevy Chase dentist Dr. Markogiannakis will provide TMJ therapy through other methods before resorting to muscle relaxers.
Can I perform TMJ therapy at home?
TMD is a complex problem that sometimes goes away on its own. However, in certain cases where the root cause isn’t taken care of, symptoms may return or worsen with time.
If you want to help control your symptoms until you can see an expert like Chevy Chase dentist Dr. Markogiannakis, we recommend the following:
- Eat softer foods
- Avoid chewing gum
- Avoid biting your nails
- Use heat and cold packs on your jaw
- Practice relaxation techniques
- Sleep on your back or your side
- Don’t rest your hand on your jaw
- Take small bites
- Practice good posture
- Ask a doctor about using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco products
Does insurance cover TMJ therapy?
The coverage for TMJ therapy across dental insurance providers varies. Dr. Markogiannakis and our Chevy Chase dental team encourage you to call your dental insurance provider beforehand to learn what coverage your plan provides.
Whether you have dental insurance or not, Dr. Markogiannakis will go over cost estimates when reviewing treatment options. To help make all treatments affordable, Smiles of Chevy Chase accepts many payment methods, and we can help you find low-interest medical financing if needed.
For Effective TMJ Therapy & Lasting Relief, Call Us Today!
Pain in your temporomandibular joints can make it difficult to chew, speak, smile, and enjoy your life. TMJ therapy can help relieve your symptoms and help prevent them from returning later on. Award-winning Chevy Chase dentist, Dr. Despina Markogiannakis, offers TMJ therapy to patients in the greater Washington area including Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Somerset, and Forest Hills, MD.
If you want to learn more about the options for TMJ therapy available at Smiles of Chevy Chase, schedule a consultation with Dr. Markogiannakis by dialing 301-652-0656. You can also fill out the contact form in the upper right-hand corner of the page and one of our friendly team members will get back to you shortly.