The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research states that approximately 5-12% of the population suffers from some type of dysfunction in their jaw joint.
TMJ Disorders refer to a broad spectrum of symptoms including: locking of the jaws in either the open or closed position, chronic tenderness or pain in the jaw area, difficulty chewing, aching or ringing (tinnitus) in and around the ears, shoulder pain, difficulty moving your jaw side-to-side, clicking or popping of the joints while opening or chewing, and tightening of the facial jaw muscles causing the teeth to clench. Other symptoms include headaches or earaches not associated with the ear, facial swelling and/or improper bite of the upper and lower teeth.
How would you know if you should be concerned about it? These signs and symptoms can escalate over time if not addressed. If left untreated, the disk that rotates in the jaw joint could get worn improperly over time, the bone could unevenly wear down, or the teeth could become sensitive from unusual jaw function.
How is TMD identified by the dentist? Typically, a thorough examination is completed by checking the following: teeth wear patterns, tenderness in the jaw muscles, clicking or popping, limitations in moving your jaw side-to-side or opening, and noises or pain while chewing or yawning. Special x-rays such as a CT SCAN or an MRI might be needed to identify specific issues deeper in the jaw joints. Sinusitis, abscessed teeth, ear infections and arthritis can also cause similar symptoms.
What can contribute to TMJ problems? The TMJ is a somewhat fragile system of muscles, connective tissues, nerves and bone joints. The pressures put on that joint when chewing hard or clenching can exceed 200 pounds! Although not as common, dislocation, infection or inflammation in the joint, can cause moderate to severe issues with the TMJ. Although not causative, there are some habits and conditions that can contribute to complicating the condition. These include biting your nails, chewing gum, clenching your teeth, grinding at night, chewing hard or crunchy foods, arthritis, trauma to the head or neck area, poor posture and connective-tissue diseases. One of the biggest contributors to complicating TMJ issues is stress.
How is TMD treated? There are numerous ways to treat TMD issues. The level of care needed depends upon the specific condition. These range from simple changes in lifestyle such as stress reduction techniques, avoiding chewing on pencils or fingernails, eating soft foods, and placing ice packs on the side of your face. Frequently, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may be suggested. These treatment options are best when the cause is more stress-related or from muscle hyperactivity. More complicated cases can be treated with physical therapies, exercises for the jaws, appliance therapies such as mouthguards or bite splints, or anti-inflammatory drugs. Low-level laser therapies are sometimes used to assist with opening the mouth and decreasing inflammation. In some cases, restoring a proper bite may be necessary through orthodontics, crowns, bridges or surgery in rare instances.
Will these treatments fix the problem or is this condition permanent? If the problem is more stress related, using many of these techniques can help. Most TMJ therapies are designed to relieve or manage the symptoms you are experiencing. If it is due to an erosion of the disk or bone in the joint, (arthritic-type changes in the jaws), it is better managed with the aforementioned advanced therapies. Each case is individually evaluated and then followed by a custom diagnosis. Correcting TMJ issues can have truly life-changing impacts on patients who are suffering.
Four Things You Should Know About TMJ / TMD
What is the difference between TMJ and TMD?
The term TMJ refers to the Temporomandibular Joint itself. The term TMD refers to a disorder in that joint system. Everyone has a TMJ – it’s the joint between your lower jaw and the base of your skull. Because there are muscles, bones, nerves and ligaments that are all interconnected to comprise the joint and the functionality of it, the system can sometimes get stressed from overuse, unusual chewing patterns, trauma or a variety of other conditions.
How long does treatment take?
If the cause of the disorder is simple, you can feel relief almost immediately. Unfortunately, most TMJ issues disguise themselves with other symptoms such as earaches, shoulder pain, jaw pain, clicking neck pain, vertigo, back pain, migraines and more. Because of this, a thorough examination is needed to identify the source of the pain, rather than having one treatment to attempt to fix a number of potential causes.
How much does treatment cost?
Depending upon the cause, it could be something as simple as modifying your diet, lifestyle changes, learning how to handle stress, or stopping a bad habit such as chewing on something hard. In other cases, a custom-made orthotic (like a nightguard) can protect your bite, relax your jaws or reposition your joint, which can assist with the recovery. Obviously, if there are multiple symptoms, if might take a few steps to correct years of damage.
How would i know if I needed treatment?
If you are experiencing pain in the head, neck, shoulder, or ear area, get frequent headaches or find that you clench or grind your teeth, you may be experiencing some of the symptoms of TMJ problems. The dentists at Sheppard Village Dental have been specially trained to identify the causes of TMJ issues and can help you get back on the pathway to health!