TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a "clicking" sound, you'll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. These symptoms occur when the joints of the jaw and the teeth do not work together correctly. The pain that occurs most commonly comes from the muscles who are the mediator between the joint and the teeth. When this discrepancy is severe symptoms can include:
- Reoccurring headaches
- Ringing and stuffiness of the ears
- Pain and tension in the neck and shoulders
- Jaws that feel tired after a short amount of chewing
- Clinching and grinding
- Locking of the joint either closed or open
- Abnormal wear to the teeth
- Unexplained tooth pain
- Buzzing and numbness of the arms and shoulder blade areas
- Popping and pain in the hip joints
- TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the name for each joint (right and left) that connects your jaw to your skull. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important.
No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders and the different treatment options take time to become effective. We can help you have a healthier and more comfortable jaw.
TROUBLE WITH YOUR JAW?
TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch and tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, or grating noise when you open or close your mouth.
DO YOU HAVE A TMJ DISORDER?
- Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
- Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
- Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
- Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
- Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
- Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
- Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat, or yawn?
- Have you ever injured your neck, head, or jaws?
- Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
- Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
- Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
- Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
- Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?
The more times you answered "yes", the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they are treated.
There are various treatment options that we can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, we will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care joined with professional care.
The initial goals are to relieve the muscle spasm and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, splint therapy or by muscle relaxants. Steroids can be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:
- Resting your jaw
- Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
- Eating soft foods
- Applying ice and heat
- Exercising your jaw
- Practicing good posture
Stress management techniques such as biofeedback or physical therapy may also be recommended, as well as a clear plastic appliance known as a splint. A splint (or night guard) fits over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep your teeth apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A night guard helps you stop clenching or grinding your teeth and reduces muscle tension at night and helps to protect the cartilage and joint. An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relives pressure on parts of your jaw and aids in disk repositioning. It may be worn 24 hours/day to help your jaw heal. An orthotic stabilization appliance is worn 24 hours/day or just at night to move your jaw into proper position. Appliances also help to protect from tooth wear.
WHAT ABOUT BITE CORRECTION OR SURGERY?
If your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit together, you may need treatment such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction, or restorative dental work. Surgical options such as arthroscopy and open joint repair restructuring are sometimes needed, but are reserved for severe cases. We do not consider TMJ surgery unless the jaw can’t open, is dislocated and nonreducible (meaning the disk will not go back into place), has severe degeneration, or the patient has undergone appliance treatment unsuccessfully.
Since the treatment options vary per patient and per circumstances, the best plan of attack is to visit our office for a joint and muscle evaluation. With the data collected at this exam, we can create a treatment plan that will keep you out of pain and restore your bite to a more functional position.
Feel like your bite doesn’t have a “Home base”? This innovative new technology, developed and used by NASA, takes the guesswork out of equilibrations, helping us to view your bite placement and more importantly the timing of the bite. This means, that unlike other dental practices, we have all the information we need to adjust your bite in the correct location without randomly removing important tooth structure to find your bite of balance and comfort so we can then address any of your other dental needs.
Here at Legends Dental, you will get comprehensive treatment that takes your specific needs and vision into consideration, giving you picture-perfect results to make your smile shine.
Your Neuromuscular bite is the physiological jaw position determined by the way your system of teeth, muscles, and joints work together. A smart dentist works with each of these elements to establish a healthy bite that keeps your muscles relaxed, and your systems working in harmony.
When all of your systems work seamlessly together, you will experience greater comfort in every aspect of your life, from smiling to sleeping, chewing to laughing.
Because we have worked with hundreds of patients, and are at the forefront of cutting edge dental practices and techniques, we have seen first hand the lasting health benefits of aligning your teeth, muscles, and bones flawlessly in order to find a pain-free, functional bite.