At Painfree Dentistry, we treat patients with temporomandibular joint dysfunction, also known as TMD. This is a medical problem that affects the jaw joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull under your ear.
TMD can cause problems including headaches, facial swelling and more. This disorder is treatable once diagnosed, and at Painfree Dentistry, we offer the greatest care.
What Is the Temporomandibular Joint?
The TMJ is a hinge that connects the lower jaw to the skull under your ear. This joint is important as it allows your jaw to move, especially for daily actions like talking, eating, yawning, and speaking.
One of the biggest contributors to TMJ problems is sleep. That is why we will evaluate your sleep during the treatment process.
Here are the common causes of the disorder:
- Bruxism—This condition causes teeth grinding and puts stress and pressure on the joint, which can change your teeth's alignment. Teeth grinding can also cause inflammation and muscle spasms.
- Clenching of the jaw—People generally bite on things like chewing gum or pens and pencils. This causes pain and tension in the jaw.
- Osteoarthritis—Just like other joints in your body, the jaw joint can suffer from arthritic symptoms.
- Rheumatoid arthritis—causes inflammation, and can deform joints and destruction of cartilage.
What Are the Symptoms?
Knowing the symptoms is important so you can spot the signs early and seek medical attention in time.
- Unable to open the mouth comfortably
- Clicking, popping or grating sounds in the jaw joint
- Locking of the jaw when attempting to open the mouth
- Swelling on the side of the face
- Ringing in the ears or ear pain
- Pain when chewing
- Teeth grinding and clenching
- Throat pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- A bite that feels uncomfortable or “off"
- Neck, shoulder and back pain
- Decreased hearing
- Vision problems
- Scalp Tenderness
When Is It an Emergency?
Although the condition isn’t usually serious, the symptoms can become severe. The two symptoms you should not ignore are closed lock (can’t open your mouth) and open lock (can’t close your mouth). These symptoms cannot wait as it will be harder to fix the jaw back into place. If you have these symptoms, call us right away.
What Is the Diagnosis and Treatment Process for TMJ?
When you come to us for diagnosis, we will give you an in-depth examination. This includes:
- A postural examination
- A cranial examination
- Dental exam
- Neurological Exam
We will also look at joint sounds, opening motions, the jaw's motion, inflammation and examine your sleep to determine if a sleep disorder is part of the cause.
There are a range of therapies to treat the disorder. You will be given a treatment plan to help combat any pain and to correct your bite. We have splints designed to help heal the jaw joint through the day and the night. Usually, treatment lasts around three months but can be more as every patient is different.
We want our patients to have the best quality of life. So, if you’re experiencing any symptoms, pain, or if you’re worried about your dental health, contact us today. You do not have to suffer from this condition. We want to help you.
What Is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a common condition that commonly occurs during sleep.
That is why many who have it are unaware they are grinding their teeth - most people only realize it if a partner tells them about the noise or if you start feeling symptoms.
Why Do You Grind Your Teeth?
A common cause is an imperfect bite, which means that the lower and upper jaw do not come together, so the teeth do not fit comfortably.
It isn’t just grinding that causes problems but jaw clenching too, making patients feel uncomfortable and sometimes causing damaged teeth.
Lifestyle can also contribute to this condition: people who are stressed can be unaware that they are grinding their teeth.
What Does Grinding and Clenching Do to Teeth?
When grinding is caused by an imperfect bite, you may start to bite harder and damage your teeth's enamel. Biting harder will eventually wear down the teeth.
The most common effects of teeth grinding include:
- Jaw pain
- Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold food/drink
- Facial pain
- Neck pain
- Problems with sleep/sleep disorder
What Are the Solutions to Teeth Grinding and Clenching?
If you discuss your symptoms with your dentist and they decide treatment is needed, you might be given a mouthguard. This is a common solution that will help prevent teeth grinding while you sleep. Not only will it stop the grinding process, but the damage it does to your teeth as well.
If teeth grinding and an imperfect bite causes clenching, your dentist may adjust your teeth. This will improve your bite, so it will stop you subconsciously grinding and clenching.
There are natural ways to stop grinding and clenching. These are often recommended to you if your condition is caused by stress. If this is the case, you could try relaxation techniques and stress management. You can also do facial exercises to relax the face before you go to sleep.
We Can Help Manage Pain and Treat Dental Disorders
Grinding and clenching the teeth is not something you have to live with. You don’t have to suffer painful symptoms or damaged teeth. At Painfree Dentistry, we offer treatments and guidance to prevent this issue from causing more damage.