I fear that I have a bad case of TMJ. After braces several years back, my bite somehow got out of alignment. When I eat, it pops so loud and it hurts and it’s embarrassing because people stare at me wondering why I eat so loud! I am PETRIFIED (I MEAN PETRIFIED) of surgery to fix this issue. I’m also PETRIFIED of what damage this could be doing by not getting it fixed. It’s been going on for a few years, how much trouble am I in? I know you would have to see it but maybe I’m overreacting? Is surgery the only option?
Breelynn A. Newport Beach, CA

breelynna October 19, 2019

Questions Answered by Leading Local Doctors

Thomas Michaelis, DDS, MD
Newport Beach, Dentistry

Unfortunately, TMJ symptoms are very common but fortunately, they rarely require surgery to correct. The majority of cases will spontaneously resolve over time, and only a few will require medical attention. Most of the time the cause is a malocclusion (“bite getting out of alignment”) where some minor occlusal interferences will lead to joint pain, joint noises and muscle pain. The treatment is usually an occlusal adjustment. This is easily performed by a knowledgeable general dentist, prosthodontist or even an orthodontist. Once the bite has been adjusted, the patients often require a night guard to keep the TMJ healthy and maybe some physical therapy to help resolve any residual symptoms. An oral surgeon is only involved in the severe cases that do not respond to conservative therapy.

There is no specialty in dentistry involving the TMJ but there are many dentists in the area who focus their practices on patients with TMJ symptoms. These dentists have a lot of experience and some very sophisticated ways of diagnosing and treating TMJ problems. It is always best to start with non-surgical treatment options and proceed from there.

>br> Thomas R. Michaelis, DDS, MD