TMJ Treatment Woodbridge, VA

The National Institute of Health’s Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that TMJ Disorders are the second most commonly occurring musculoskeletal conditions resulting in pain and disability (after chronic low back pain).

Dr. Joseph Cavallo has completed specialized, post-graduate training in the area of TMJ Disorders. He can offer you a personalized treatment plan to alleviate the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction and restore harmony to your bite. Dr. Cavallo also provides restorative dentistry treatments to new and existing patients in Woodbridge, VA. 

TMJ Treatment in Woodbridge, VA

About TMJ Disorders

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the upper and lower jaw. It is responsible for the opening and closing of the mouth. TMJ disorder is a catch-all term for a wide variety of potential issues affecting the jaw joint, muscles in the face, neck, and surrounding nerves.

TMJ Disorder often stems from an imbalanced bite or a lack of harmony in the way your teeth come together. It can be a result of stress, teeth clenching, an accident or other trauma, arthritis, disk damage, or even poorly balanced dental work.

Common Causes of TMJ Disorder

There is no single cause for TMJ dysfunction. Any number of factors or combination of factors may be to blame, including:

  • Trauma to the head, neck, or face
  • Trauma to the TMJ joint or arthritis
  • Hormonal changes or imbalances
  • Malocclusion (where the jaws do not line up correctly, resulting in bite problems)
  • Stress

TMJ Symptoms

As with the causes, symptoms of TMJ disorder vary greatly between patients. TMJ symptoms often mask themselves or are similar to those of other medical conditions, making diagnosis extremely difficult.

Common symptoms of TMJ disorder include:

  • Headaches
  • Shoulder, neck, facial pain
  • Clicking or popping when opening or closing the jaw
  • Locked jaw or limited mobility in the jaw joint
  • Teeth clenching, teeth grinding, often accompanied by tooth wear
  • Chronic earaches

How long does a TMJ procedure usually take?

TMJ correction may take more than one visit, depending on the severity of the occlusal disharmony. Occlusal equilibration is done to make very subtle changes in teeth and involve restorations. After the treatment, the teeth and bite are expected to shift in how they fit together. If, after acclimating to the new jaw position, a patient continues to experience uncomfortable TMJ symptoms, the occlusal analysis and adjustment may be repeated.

TMJ Treatment: What to Expect

Dr. Cavallo’s goal is to treat TMJ by gently and naturally bringing the head, neck, jaw, and bite into proper alignment. He will start with a comprehensive evaluation to look for the signs and symptoms of TMJ dysfunction.

Dr. Cavallo starts by obtaining a detailed history of your symptoms. He will then do a clinical examination that begins with examining the muscles that control the movement of your lower jaw. He also uses a Doppler auscultation instrument to evaluate the popping or clicking sounds coming from your temporomandibular joint.

He will conduct a load test of the joint to look for any tension or tenderness, and a range of motion exam will be done to determine joint mobility. If needed, an MRI or additional x-rays of the joint may be taken.

Occlusal analysis is the next step in diagnosing and treating your TMD pain. It is a method of recording your biting/chewing motion on a device called an articulator, which mimics your actual jaw movements.

During this analysis, Dr. Cavallo measures:

  • the relationship between the upper arch of teeth and the jaw joints (TMJ)
  • how the upper and lower jaw and teeth meet with bite registration wax

TMJ Mouth Guard: A TMJ mouth guard is a removable oral appliance that helps to keep the teeth and jaw in the proper position. Usually worn during sleep, an oral appliance may also prevent teeth grinding or clenching, which can lead to tooth wear and contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. TMJ treatment through splints, mouth guards and night guards can help to alleviate the most common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction and prevent damage to the teeth and gums.

Bite Correction Procedures: Occlusal equilibration, better known as bite correction or TMJ correction, is the process of adjusting the alignment of the teeth for optimal fit. The teeth should line up so that they make even contact with one another, creating a low-stress bite.

Over 95% of TMJ dysfunction (TMD) and TMJ pain are caused by an improper occlusion. Bite correction can help to alleviate the symptoms of TMD, such as sore jaw, headaches, teeth clenching, and more.

How long does an occlusal analysis take?

The occlusal analysis is an essential aspect of diagnosing and treating TMJ disorder. The analysis may take just a few minutes, and it enables the dentist to observe where teeth are not fitting together properly when chewing and biting down. This brief, painless test may be done after a thorough consultation and physical examination of the mouth and jaw joints. 

How does an occlusal equilibration work?

Occlusal equilibration may be recommended if the occlusal analysis finds areas where the biting surfaces of teeth are not meeting as they should. This conservative treatment also referred to as occlusal adjustment, is performed to restore balance to the bite.

It involves the mechanical adjustment of natural teeth or various restorations as needed to allow the lower jaw to function efficiently. By making slight changes to the cusps of teeth or certain restorations, such as fillings or crowns, Dr. Cavallo enables the jaw to rest and function in a more acceptable position. 

What is the recovery like after an Occlusal equilibration?

There is no downtime needed to recover from this conservative treatment. However, patients should expect their bite to feel different. Even minor adjustments to the biting surfaces of teeth create change in the way the mouth feels. This is the purpose, though, to situate the teeth and bite in a way that reduces strain on the temporomandibular joints.

While teeth are not drilled or dramatically reshaped during occlusal equilibration, some patients may experience slight tooth sensitivity after their appointment. If this occurs, an over-the-counter pain reliever may be taken. 

Is a bite correction procedure painful?

No. Occlusal equilibration is so gentle that it can be performed without local anesthetic. The adjustments made during this procedure are minor and do not require drilling. Only microscopic layers of enamel are altered to achieve proper bite position. 

How can I care for my mouth to alleviate TMJ symptoms at home?

The TMJ Association offers several tips for managing symptoms at home. These include:

  • Moist heat. A warm, moist washcloth can be applied to the sides of the jaw for 10 to 15 minutes. This is recommended for dull, aching pain.
  • Cold compresses. Ice packs may be wrapped in thin towels and applied to the sides of the jaw for 10 to 15 minutes if the pain is sharp. This may be repeated every two hours. 

According to the TMJ Association, 74% of people who use hot or cold compresses in these ways experienced a reduction in symptoms. 

  • Eat softer foods that require little chewing to allow muscles to relax.
  • Take small bites to avoid overworking the jaw.
  • Take an over-the-counter analgesic as directed if necessary.