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What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

There are 3 main categories:
•  Myofascial pain - discomfort or pain in the muscles that control the jaw as well as the neck and shoulder muscles
•  Internal derangement of the joint - a displaced disc or dislocated jaw
•  Degenerative joint disease - osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis

Many patients will have more than one of these conditions occur simultaneously.

How do I know if I have a TMJ disorder?

Symptoms can vary greatly, may be acute (short-lived) or chronic (lasting many months, years, or even decades), and may include any or all of the following:
•  pain in and around the jaw
•  headaches
•  difficulty opening and closing
•  clicking or popping in the jaw
•  difficulty chewing
•  tired or sore jaw in the morning when you wake up
•  clenching or grinding habit (bruxism)
•  frequent earaches or ringing in the ears
•  sore neck or shoulder muscles

Blonde woman holding her face and neck in pain

How can our office help you?

Thorough extensive research and years of studying with leaders in the field of TMJ disorders, Dr. Cheryl Freeman has developed an extensive evaluation process to help identify causative factors of TMJ pain and dysfunction and implements a conservative approach to therapy. If you are suffering, call our office today to schedule a TMJ Evaluation and we will partner with you in working toward health and comfort.

What is your role in treatment?

Your active participation in your treatment is absolutely critical in relieving your TMJ symptoms and pain. You must be committed to identifying contributing factors and then managing them. Without focus and persistence, you will not achieve optimal relief.

What is the dentist's role in treatment?

1.  Rule out pathology of the joints (usually through x-rays) or degenerative joint disease (through history and auscultation)
2.  Address possible dental contributing factors ' this could include stabilization of the bite through restoration, a bite adjustment or equilibration, tooth movement, or management with a bite splint
3.  Help you identify and address:
•  Dysfunctional habits such as clenching, grinding, or nail biting - may involve jaw exercise, biofeedback, splint therapy
•  Stressors - may require therapy referral and/or learning relaxation techniques such as deep diaphragmatic breathing
•  Referred pain from trigger points - usually requires involvement of physical therapist or chiropractor
•  Inadequate nutrition and exercise - for optimal wellness

Do you have popping or painful jaw joints, or do you grind your teeth at night? Our office can provide a splint/nightguard that will fit your budget as well as any adjunctive therapy needed. You will protect your teeth, stabilize your joints, and maybe even eliminate those pesky headaches!

More than fifteen percent of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain. Some common symptoms include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth, or even headaches and neck aches.

If your symptoms are limiting your ability to chew or function normally, have lasted longer than 2 weeks, or are recurring, you would benefit from a thorough TMJ analysis. Treatment can then be customized to your condition. The likelihood of a clenching or grinding habit is high, and a nighttime stabilization splint is likely indicated. Please contact our office if you feel you need to schedule a TMJ analysis, and a questionnaire will be provided for you to fill out ahead of your appointment.

TMJ Disorder Treatment

Treatment for TMJ disorders can vary from simple self-care techniques to complex surgical procedures. One of the first steps in TMJ disorder treatment for most patients is splint therapy.

Types of Splints

There are many different splints made with various materials and designs. Many patients respond well to a simple splint fitted to one arch with only front teeth contacting. Some require all teeth to contact a flat plane splint surface. Still others require both arches to be fitted with a splint component. Patients who very aggressively grind their teeth may require an extremely hard lab-processed splint.

How do Splints work?

They allow the jaw to rest in the most orthopedicallly stable position, alleviating the tension and tightness that bruxism, clenching, and other jaw problems may cause. They protect teeth from wear and allow muscles, joints, and ligaments to relax.

Splint Instructions and Care

•  Wear splint at night while sleeping. Daytime use is only indicated for acute pain relief.
•  Your teeth may become sore the first few nights - this will typically resolve in a few days
•  You may notice more saliva with the appliance - this will resolve in 3 - 5 days
•  Your bite may feel 'off' up to 2 hours after removing your splint. Chewing sugarless gum will help your bite return to normal. If this persists longer than a couple of hours please call the office at 625-3292 - this could indicate an underlying bite problem whose only stable solution would be a realignment of the bite.
•  Cleaning your splint is best accomplished by soaking for 5 - 10 minutes daily in either a mixture of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, a cleanser like RetainerBrite or Efferdent, or a non-persulfate cleanser like DentaSoak for persulfate-allergic individuals. Use of a sonic or ultrasonic cleaner is beneficial, with an ultrasonic delivering the best results. These can be found at Bed Bath and Beyond, Amazon, or from other sources. Your splint can be stored in mouthwash or water.
•  Keep splint stored where animals cannot reach it - pets love them!!

TMJ Self-Care Tips

Here are some self-care tips and guidelines for those who suffer from this painful problem. You may also wish to click here for articles and further information about TMJ.
•  Avoid Opening the mouth too wide
•  Stifle yawns to prevent opening the mouth too wide
•  Take small bites of food. Cut apples, sandwiches, or other large foods into small pieces
•  Avoid long dental appointments. Take frequent breaks during appointments
•  Apply heat and cold, stretch
•  Freeze a Styrofoam cup of water and cut off the upper portion, exposing the ice. Apply ice to jaw muscles and stretch the mouth open and closed 20 times. Follow with warm compress and stretching. Do this for 15 to 20 minutes.
•  Be sure to hold the telephone with your hand - do not cradle it between your shoulder and head. If you must use the phone while writing or typing for prolonged periods of time, use a headset or speakerphone.
•  Make sure your computer is positioned so you are able to maintain proper posture while using it. The screen should be at eye level and in front of you. The keyboard should be lower than the desktop so that your wrists are at elbow level.

Rest your jaw muscles and the jaw joint

•  Avoid chewing gum, biting nails, chewing your cheek, or biting pencils
•  Avoid clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth
•  Throughout the day, remind yourself to relax your jaw, teeth apart, muscles relaxed
•  Avoid chewy or hard foods, such as bagels, raw carrots and other raw vegetables, crusty breads, and hard chips


Be aware of your posture throughout the day. Keep your shoulders back and head up.
•  Avoid sloping your shoulders or a head forward position
•  Maintain lumbar support
•  Avoid crossing your legs for prolonged periods
•  Keep feet flat on the floor

Leisure activities

•  Maintain good posture while watching television or reading
•  Sit in an upright position and avoid leaning or slouching. Put your feet up and relax.


•  Choose low-impact exercise to avoid trauma to joints
•  Take a brisk walk for 10 minutes in the morning and evening
•  Take advantage of opportunities for moderate exercise
•  Park your car a block away from work

Manage your stress

People often react to stress by clenching and tightening facial and neck muscles.
•  Choose the method of stress management that best suits you and stick to it
•  Practice relaxation throughout the day
•  Listen to pleasant, soothing music while in your car

Maintain good nutrition

•  Avoid caffeine
•  Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day
•  Eat breakfast, especially if you use aspirin or ibuprofen


•  Sleep on your back or side when possible, sleeping on your stomach puts pressure on your jaw.
•  Sleep with a pillow under your knees when on your side.
•  Get an adequate amount of sleep at night.
•  Avoid strenuous activity or eating late in the evening.
•  Massage your face and neck muscles before you go to bed.

Avoid all forms of tobacco

Randolph Center for Dental Excellence
Dr. Bryan Freeman and Dr. Cheryl Freeman

(336) 444-2772

134 Davis Street
Asheboro, NC 27203-5469

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TMJ Disorder | Dentist Asheboro, NC | Randolph Center for Dental Excellence
At Randolph Center for Dental Excellence, we are experts at diagnosing and providing the most effective treatments for TMJ disorders. Click here to learn more!
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