The temporomandibular joints, called TMJ, are the joints and jaw muscles that make it possible to open and close your mouth. Located on each side of the head, your TMJ work together when you chew, speak or swallow and include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone. They also control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward and side to side.
Each TMJ has a disc between the ball and socket. The disc cushions the load while enabling the jaw to open widely and rotate or glide. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.
TMJ is experienced by many people and it affects more women than men. While TMJ pain can be treated using various do-it-yourself methods, you’ll need to see the dentist if the condition is severe. At Broadway Dental Excellence, we’re here to help you get some relief!
CAUSES OF TMJ
TMJ is most commonly caused by stress. Stress causes the patient to unconsciously clench the teeth together, usually at night. The pressure the clenching causes breaks down the cartilage surrounding the joint and over stimulates the facial muscles associated with opening and closing the mouth. TMJ can also be caused by tooth and jaw alignment, arthritis, dislocation or injury.
SYMPTOMS OF TMJ
You may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Sore or tight muscles of mastication (muscles used to chew)
- Frequent headaches
- Jaw locking open or closed
- Clicking or popping of joint when opening or closing mouth
- Limited opening of mouth
- Pain when chewing
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT OF TMJ
Diagnosis is an important step before treatment. Part of the dental examination includes checking the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving. Depending on the diagnosis, the dentist may refer you to a physician or another dental professional.
There are several treatments for TMJ disorders. The dentist may encourage you to try simple treatment before moving on to more involved treatment. The recommended “less is often best” approach in treating TMJ disorders includes:
- Eating softer foods
- Avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
- Modifying the pain with heat packs
- Practicing relaxation techniques to control jaw tension, such as meditation or biofeedback.
If necessary for your symptoms, the following treatments may be advised:
- Exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles
- Medications prescribed by your dentist; for example, muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-anxiety drugs or anti-inflammatory medications
- A night guard or bite plate to decrease clenching or grinding of teeth.
In some cases, the dentist may recommend fixing an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping some teeth. Orthodontic treatment may also be recommended. The dentist can suggest the most appropriate therapy based on the suspected cause.
If you are having any of the symptoms of TMJ, call us at Broadway Dental Excellence today to schedule an exam. Dr. Tozer and Dr. Blanchette are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ and will help you get relief from this painful disorder with an individualized treatment plan.