Unless you have been diagnosed or treated for TMJ disorder, chances are you won’t know what it is, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t experienced it. On either side of your head, there is a temporomandibular joint, which for obvious reasons is shortened to TMJ. Simply put, this joint connects the jaw to the skull, allowing you to chew, open and close your mouth, yawn and of course, speak. It is also the reason you can move your lower jaw from side to side.
Because these joints are so complex, when they are damaged in any way they can cause ear, neck and jaw pain, as well as headaches. TMJ disorder can be frustrating for the sufferer because you never know when the excruciating pain is going to strike, but also because it’s one of the more difficult conditions to treat.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorder is a result of your jaw muscles tightening. This happens when you chew food or if you grind or clench your jaw. While there may be a pain in the jaw, it can also move to other areas of the skull causing headaches or migraines, as well as earache, shoulder pain, and even toothache.
Trust us, you will know if you have TMJ disorder, but it is best not to self diagnose. Your dentist will do a thorough examination to confirm whether you do indeed have it. Other common symptoms to be aware of include:
- Clicking, locking, or popping of the jaw
- Painful jaw muscles
- Pain when the mouth is opened widely
Another problem with diagnosing TMJ disorder is there is no apparent cause, but the most common reasons for the condition are:
- Dislocation of the temporomandibular joint
- Sleep apnea
- An abnormal bite or misaligned jaw or teeth
- Teeth grinding (bruxism) or teeth clenching
- Incorrect fillings or crowns that affect how your jaw closes
How Your Dentist Can Help
TMJ disorder affects over 30 million Americans; however, there are currently no certified TMJ disorder specialists. But because the condition is caused by several dental problems, like jaw or teeth alignment, bruxism or incorrect fitting crowns of fillings, your dentist is an excellent place to start.
With a thorough examination, he will be able to recommend the correct treatment or refer you to another specialist, like an ear, nose and throat doctor for example.
During a consultation with your dentist, he will look at the alignment of your teeth and jaw and ask about headaches and sleep patterns. He will also look for possible clues, such as unusual wear on your teeth. Suggested treatment is completely dependent on the findings of this exam.
Teeth Grinding or Clenching
Unusually worn down teeth are a sign of teeth grinding or clenching. Not only does this result in headaches, earache, and a painful jaw, it can also damage the enamel on your teeth and cause them to become loose.
Your dentist will recommend a bite plate or splint, which stops your teeth from grinding against each other. Not only will this ease your TMJ disorder symptoms, but it will also prevent further damage to your teeth in the long run.
If your TMJ is as a result of you grinding your teeth at night, he will suggest you wear a night guard when you sleep. This is an effective way to stop you grinding, and will protect your jaw and teeth, and ease TMJ disorder symptoms.
Teeth or Jaw Alignment
Should there be a problem with the alignment of your teeth or jaw, your dentist can correct this with Invisalign® aligners. The clear braces also relieve any TMJ disorder symptoms because they stop you from biting down incorrectly.
Sleep apnea is a chronic disorder that affects your airway when you are asleep. If you are suffering from this condition, your dentist will provide you with a mandibular advancement device or a dental sleep device. It looks like a mouth guard and works by pushing the lower jaw forward. What this does is tighten the muscles that normally allow an airway collapse, preventing your airway from closing while you sleep.
Not only does the dental sleep device strengthen the muscles over time, but it also reduces and stops the symptoms associated with TMJ disorder.
TMJ and Your Dentist
If TMJ disorder is making your life a complete pain, we suggest you make an appointment with Dr. Todd Christy at Berrien Dental. With a strong emphasis on neuromuscular dentistry, the team considers not only your teeth and gums, but also looks at the relationship between your upper and lower jaw, your bite, as well as the joints, bones, nerves, and muscles of the jaw.
As innovators in this field, Berrien Dental works with you to ensure that over time your nerves and joints coexist with your teeth and joints. Because we look at cause as well as the symptoms, we are able to prevent, reduce and stop TMJ disorder.
If you are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired as a result of your TMJ disorder symptoms, call Berrien Dental today.