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TMJ Specialist
in Charleston and
South Carolina Areas

What is TMJ?

As per most TMJ specialists, TMJ disorder is a condition affecting the temporomandibular joints, which are the two most complex joints in the body. These joints connect your lower jaw to your skull, and work with your muscles to allow movement of the jaw: up and down, side to side, and forward to back. When properly aligned, you can chew, talk, yawn, and swallow without any issues. However, if they are not aligned, you may experience TMJ disorder.

Research shows that approximately 12% of the population experiences TMJ disorders at some point. These problems are more common in females, with 9 females to every 1 male experiencing problems at any given time.

If you believe that you may have TMJ disorder, it’s important to seek treatment from a TMJ Specialist/TMJ Dentist as quickly as possible. If left untreated, you are at an increased risk of jaw joint deterioration, tooth damage, and chronic pain. TMJ disorders can also impact your mental health, causing insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

TMJ Treatment

TMJ & Sleep Apnea: Are they Connected

Another complication that comes with not treating TMJ is sleep apnea. There is some research that indicates, while the two are completely separate conditions, there may be a connection. However, it is unclear if there is one that causes the other or if it is a cyclical problem.

Quality Sleep Solutions offers a CPAP alternative for treating your sleep apnea and TMJ disorder. We offer a customized oral appliance that will keep your jaw properly aligned while you sleep. Our TMJ Specialists are available across five locations in South Carolina to serve you.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

There are several signs and symptoms associated with TMJ disorder, including:


The most obvious indication that you may have TMJ disorder is pain when moving the jaw. In addition, you may experience headaches/migraines, back or neck aches, earaches, and/or pain around the ear spreading into the cheeks. If your pain is not near the jaw, your doctor will look for other symptoms before diagnosing TMJ.

Grinding Sounds

Another common symptom of TMJ disorder is a popping, clicking, or grinding sound when talking, eating, or opening the mouth. However, it is important to note that noise when moving the jaw is common- it does not necessarily mean that you have TMJ. It is only when the sounds occur with limited movement or pain that you may want to consider seeking a TMJ diagnosis.

In addition to jaw noises, some patients experience ringing or buzzing in the ears along with earaches.

Restricted Movement

Finally, if you have limited movement that prevents you from fully opening your mouth or moving your jaw in a particular direction indicates that you may have TMJ disorder.

Diagnosing TMJ Disorder

In order to get a full diagnosis, you’ll need to discuss your symptoms with your dentist who will perform the following tests:

  • Observe the range of motion when opening/closing the mouth
  • Press on the face/jaw to locate areas of discomfort
  • Feel around jaw joints as you open/close your mouth

In addition, your dental provider, or TMJ Specialist may use imaging to look at your jaw joints and determine the amount and area of damage. Some common options for imaging include:

  • Panoramic x-rays: shows an overview of your teeth, jawbone, and temporomandibular joints
  • MRI: MRI scans can be used to see the soft tissues in/around the jaw joints, they show the position of the disc, as well as any inflammation and jaw locking that is present. This scan will show if your TMJ disc is functioning properly
  • CBCT scan: CBCT scans capture thousands of images to create a 3-D representation of your teeth, sinuses, jaws, and facial bones. This gives your medical provider a detailed view of your facial anatomy.

Causes of TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorder can be the result of a variety of issues, including:
  • Clenching/grinding of teeth
  • Sleep apnea
  • Jaw injury/trauma
  • Arthritis
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Poor posture

Clenching and grinding of teeth, known as bruxism, is one of the most common causes of TMJ disorder. The constant stress can cause the jaw joint to become inflamed, which can cause pain. If you primarily grind your teeth at night while sleeping, a night guard can help protect your teeth and jaw.

There is some indication that TMJ disorder may be related to sleep apnea, primarily obstructive sleep apnea. However, at this time it is unclear which condition causes or contributes to the other- or if there is a cyclical relationship between the two.
Your jaw joint is particularly vulnerable to trauma from sports accidents, car crashes, falls, punches to the face, and more. Trauma or injury to the jaw joint could cause TMJ disorder. The best way to avoid TMJ disorder is to seek medical attention immediately following injury or trauma to the jaw.
Arthritis is a condition that is characterized by inflammation of the joints. Since the temporomandibular joint is a joint, it can become inflamed, which can cause discomfort and pain. You may be able to prevent TMJ disorder by keeping your arthritis symptoms under control.

Stress and anxiety can cause teeth/jaw clenching and stress, which can cause the development of TMJ disorder. You may be able to prevent the development of TMJ disorder by finding healthy ways to deal with your stress and anxiety such as therapy, physical activity, or meditation.

Finally, poor posture may cause TMJ disorder to develop or may aggravate the symptoms of TMJ disorder. The best way to reduce your risk of developing TMJ disorder is to practice good posture habits, keeping your spine, neck, and head straight.

How to Prevent TMJ Disorder

The best ways to prevent TMJ disorder is to:

  1. Practice proper oral care habits, which includes brushing and flossing twice daily,
  2. Visiting the dentist every 6 months for an exam and cleaning, This will help prevent tooth decay and gum inflammation, as well as address broken or missing teeth quickly. If you are experiencing TMJ pain, make sure that you make your dentist aware of it, so they can recommend a treatment or refer to a good TMJ Specialist.

Some other tips for preventing pain associated with TMJ disorder include:

  • Avoiding taffy, gum, and other foods that are hard or chewy
  • Sticking to soft, healthy foods- especially if you are susceptible to TMJ pain
  • Avoiding chewing on the tongue or inside of cheeks

Note to Reader: When you are eating, make sure that you chew on both sides of your mouth. Some patients who have TMJ pain will avoid chewing on one side to avoid the pain. While this may make sense, it can cause the pain to worsen over time.

TMJ Treatment Options

For some patients, the symptoms of TMJ disorder will resolve on their own without intervention. 

However, this isn’t the case for everyone. If you have been diagnosed with TMJ disorder and it does not resolve or gets worse, you have a wide variety of treatment options from self-care techniques to surgery and many things in-between. Many times, medical providers will use a combination of techniques.

Factors that affect TMJ treatment’s success

Most medical providers agree that it’s best to start with self-care treatments. Your provider will consider several factors when choosing the best treatment option:

  • Your age
  • How you handle certain medications, therapies, or procedures
  • Your current health and medical history
  • Your personal preferences for treatment
  • How long your condition is expected to last

Some of the common treatment options for TMJ include:

  • TMJ Self Care

    Some conservative options for TMJ treatments are:

    • Moist heat/cold packs: start by applying a cold pack to your face/temple area for about 10 minutes. Then, do some stretching exercises. After the exercises, apply a warm cloth to your face for 5 minutes. This should be done several times a day.
    • Eating soft foods: stick to a soft foods diet including cooked fruits/veggies, grains, eggs, soups, mashed potatoes, etc. This will keep your jaw from having to work too hard. You should avoid foods that are chewy, hard, or crunchy- and avoid chewing gum.
    • Medications: you can take OTC pain relievers to relieve pain and swelling, or you can discuss prescription options with your medical provider.
    • Splint/night guard for TMJ: a dental splint or night guard fits over your upper and lower teeth, providing stable tooth contacts. In addition, a night guard places your jaw in a more favorable position, which can correct bite issues that you may have. The difference is that a splint is worn all the time and a night guard is only worn while sleeping.
    • Corrective dental treatments: if you are missing teeth or your teeth are misaligned, you may want to consider dental treatments such as dental implants, bridges, or braces.


  • Specialized TMJ Treatment Options

    If the above treatments are ineffective, your medical provider may offer additional treatments, such as:

    • TENS therapy: low-level electrical currents to help relax the jaw joint and facial muscles
    • Ultrasound: deep heat treatment applied to the jaw joint to relieve discomfort and improve movement
    • Trigger point injections: pain medication injected into the “trigger points” in the facial muscles
    • Radio wave therapy: low-level electrical stimulation to increase blood flow and provide relief
    • Botox: injections that reduce inflammation and muscle mass


  • Surgical Options for TMJ Treatment

    While surgery is the best option for many patients, it should only be considered after all other options have been exhausted. There are three types of TMJ surgery:

    • Arthrocentesis
    • Arthroscopy
    • Open-joint surgery

The best option depends on the severity of your TMJ symptoms and the complexity of your condition. It is important to note that if your medical provider does recommend surgical intervention, you should discuss the benefits and risks of each option.

Sleep Apnea and TMJ Specialists in Charleston and South Carolina - Quality Sleep Solutions

If you are in South Carolina and you are experiencing TMJ pain, consider Quality Sleep Solutions for treatment. We offer a CPAP alternative to sleep apnea, which can help with TMJ disorder.

Dr. Michael Ammons is committed to providing his patients with the best care possible. In fact, his commitment is so strong that he completes more than 200 hours of education each year. In addition to running Quality Sleep Solutions, he is also the primary Practice Owner at his dental practice, Ammons Dental by Design.

Schedule your consultation with Dr. Ammons and the team at Quality Sleep Solutions today to learn how we can help you with your TMJ disorder and sleep apnea.

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