The temporomandibular joints, called TMJ, are the joints and muscles that make it possible to open and close your mouth. Located on each side of the head, these joints work together when you chew, speak, or swallow. They include muscles, ligaments, and jawbones. They also control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward, and sideways.
Each TMJ has a disc between the ball and socket. The disc cushions the load while enabling the jaw to open widely, rotate, or glide. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones from working properly may result in a painful disorder.
Many people experience TMJ. It affects more women than men. While pain can be treated using various do-it-yourself methods, you’ll need to see a dentist if the condition is severe. At Broadway Dental Excellence, we’re here to help you get relief!
TMJ is most commonly caused by stress. Stress causes the patient to clench the teeth together, usually at night unconsciously. The pressure the clenching causes breaks down the joint’s cartilage and overstimulates the facial muscles associated with opening and closing the mouth. TMJ can also be caused by tooth or jaw alignment, arthritis, dislocation, or injury.
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 the mouth
- Pain when chewing
DIAGNOSIS OF TMJ
Diagnosis is an important step before treatment. Part of the dental examination includes checking 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.
TREATMENT OF TMJ
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 treatment includes:
- Eating softer foods.
- Avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails.
- Modifying the pain with heat packs.
- Practicing relaxation techniques to control jaw tension, like meditation or biofeedback.
If necessary for your symptoms, the following treatments may be advised:
- Exercise to strengthen the jaw muscles.
- Medications prescribed by your dentist include muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-anxiety, 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 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, contact us at Broadway Dental Excellence to schedule an exam. Dr. Tozer and Dr. Blanchette are trained in TMJ diagnosis and treatment. We will help you get relief from this painful disorder with an individualized treatment plan.