Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJs)
Some parts of our bodies operate automatically, so much so that we don’t consciously acknowledge them throughout our day. Examples include blinking and breathing which are performed regularly by the body while we attend to other aspects of our interaction with our environment. Other functions performed by our bodies are not done automatically, but they are done so routinely that we tend not to think about them – like chewing. Like so many other challenges in the human body, we don’t pay attention until the problem gets our attention. You eat comfortably every day, but if you start to feel discomfort in your jaw, you quickly realize how much you rely on a functional jaw to assist you in taking in nutrition.
Whether you visit the Dentist every six month as recommended, or if you haven’t been to the Dentist in years, we want to help you gain and maintain good oral health.
Pain in the jaw is often an indicator of a problem with the temporomandibular joint, leading patients to refer to ‘having’ TMJ. The TM joint is the joint responsible for bringing together the top and bottom teeth for chewing and stabilizing the lower jaw. When all parts of the jaw are working as they should, you can open and close your mouth without pain or discomfort, but problems with your TM joint can result in a number of symptoms:
- Headaches – When the muscles of the jaw become tense and inflamed, patients commonly complain of pain in the temples or other muscles of the face and jaw.
- Ear pain – Jaw tension can begin to impact other parts of the body. Due to their proximity, it is common to experience a feeling of ear fullness or sharp pain in the ear and down the neck.
- Tongue pain – How far can you stick out your tongue comfortably? When the TM joint is tight and inflamed, other tissues in its proximity can begin to experience tightness and inflammation, too. This can affect the tongue muscle, restricting movement and contributing to the pain you feel.
- Clicking, popping or locking – opening and closing the jaw should be a smooth, comfortable motion. Any popping or jerked motion warrants a check by your dentist.
- Micro fracturing of the enamel – if you have TMJ, you may be a grinder or clencher by night. If this is not addressed, the stress on the teeth can result in small fractures of the enamel.
- Tooth breaks or cracks – those who are powerful grinders or who have weakened teeth often crack or break their teeth under pressure.
- Neck and shoulder pain – muscle tension in the jaw can cause the same in the shoulders and back. If you find yourself waking up with pain in the head or neck, you should see your dentist for an assessment.
What Can be Done?
Your dentist will assess your bite form and the muscles of the jaw – overdeveloped jaw muscles are a sign of nighttime clenching. If your dentist sees evidence of a TMD, a night guard may be prescribed to decrease the impact of the clenching on the teeth. These guards are custom made in a dental lab in order for them to fit snugly over the upper or lower teeth. When worn at night, the guard’s material takes the brunt of the clenching forces, protecting your enamel from cracking and teeth from breaking. If chronic muscle tension remains a concern, your dentist may recommend a medication to decrease inflammation and encourage the jaw to relax when at rest. Botox® injections have been shown to be effective against pain caused by TMJ. These injections are introduced to the muscle in the jaw and go to work by blocking communication from the nerve to the muscle that is encouraging the tightening. This is a safe practice that can produce results for as long as four months at a time before repeating the injection.
About D&D Dental
D&D Dental Clinic Mill Woods Edmonton prides ourselves in offering gentle and compassionate dentistry with the same care and comfort we want for ourselves.
Give Us A Call
We Look Forward To Hearing From You. Give Us A Call With Any Questions Or To Book An Appointment.
Book Your Next Appointment
Providing you with maximum level of comfort & professionalism in every visit! All services performed by a general dentist.
The impact of stress on the TM joint cannot be overstated. Although medical interventions are effective, your dentist will encourage you to seek ways to decompress before bed and avoid stress overall. If you suffer from TMJ, your dentist will encourage you to avoid chewing gum since the repetitive chewing motion will likely aggravate tension and inflammation in the jaw. Similarly, you should only use your teeth for their intended purposes. That means that opening pistachios, lids and nail biting are off the table. Not only will your jaw thank you, but your teeth will be thankful to avoid the strain and potential for breaks.
If you have questions about this or other services provided by our general dentist, contact our clinic today.