Most people who live with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) don’t get treatment. That may be because they don’t get properly diagnosed for a long time. Other times, they may ignore TMJ symptoms until those symptoms become serious, such as having a dislocated or locked jaw. Unfortunately, by that time people may need emergency professional care.

Now a recent study of emergency room visits shows that this type of situation is the most common reason for visiting the emergency room for TMJ. However, most people with TMJ don’t have to go to the emergency room for dislocated TMJ, if they treat their condition in the early stages.

Entrance of an emergency room

Surveying Emergency Room Visits

Data about TMJ in professional care settings is hard to get. That’s why this survey of emergency room treatments from Switzerland is so welcome. It gives us an idea about what kinds of situations drive people to get professional care for their condition.

In this study, researchers analyzed dislocations of the temporomandibular joint that were treated in the emergency room from 2012 to 2016 at the University Hospital Bern. In this time, they had 32 patients with dislocated joints. Almost all of the cases (94%) were nontraumatic. That means that they weren’t the result of violence or accidents, but happened simply in the course of natural jaw motion. In addition, most of these patients (62.5%) experienced dislocations repeatedly as part of their chronic condition.

All but one of the patients were able to get their jaw repositioned without surgery, though many (39%) of them needed sedation and pain medication. The only patient who needed surgery to reposition their jaw had had prior jaw surgery.

How to Avoid Going to the Emergency Room for TMJ

This study shows us that when people go to the emergency room for jaw dislocation, it’s usually because of nontraumatic events. In fact, most people who get this treatment have needed it before, and are likely to need it again. Temporomandibular joint disorders may initially seem harmless, but they can become a crisis situation if left untreated.

One of the most common symptoms of TMJ is popping and clicking of the jaw joints. This sound is caused by movement of the cushioning disc in the joint. The disc is supposed to stay between the bones of the joint, but it can slide out of place. When it slips back into place, it causes the sound, and often a sudden movement of the jaw. This may be a nuisance, but people often ignore it. They may think that it’s no more serious than cracking their knuckles. However, it’s a sign that something is wrong with your jaw joints. As the ligaments that hold the disc in place become stretched and damaged, the disc may no longer slip back into place. Instead, it will block the jaw’s movement. This is often what drives people to the emergency room.

But if you seek treatment for a clicking and popping jaw, we can help to make sure the cushioning disc stays in place. Using a bite splint to hold your jaw in a favorable position for the joints and muscles can retrain the body to keep the disc in place. This can stop the popping and clicking and hopefully prevent a locked jaw.

It can also help resolve jaw pain and headaches associated with TMJ.

Noninvasive, Drug-Free Treatment for TMJ

If you are experiencing symptoms of TMJ in Spokane Valley, we can help. We offer noninvasive, drug-free treatment for your TMJ, utilizing an oral splint to reposition the jaw and protect the joints. We also offer BOTOX ® injections when appropriate to relax jaw muscles.

To learn more about how our treatment options can stop the progression of your TMJ, please call (509) 927-2273 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics.