What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder describe a group of problems in relation to the jaw joint. If you have been experiencing any clicking sounds in the jaw area or any pain it is great to know that it is now easier than it was before to diagnose and treat these symptoms. When the jaw joints and chewing muscles do not work in sync we begin to experience these symptoms. The name of the joints on both the left and right side of the jaw is temporomandibular joint and it is where the jaw connects to your skull. Being as some TMJ issues can turn into more concerning conditions it is important to detect and treat them early on. There is not one form of treatment to cure all TMJ conditions completely and for treatment to become effective it does take time; we can however help your jaw to be healthier and function more comfortably.
There are many reasons a TMJ condition can develop. It can be due to overclocking and tightening your jaw muscles or maybe grinding your teeth and causing stress to your TM joints. Your jaw joint could be damaged because of injury or a disease. Certain injuries and even arthritis can cause direct damage to the joint or even tear and stretch the ligaments of the muscle. What happens after that is that the disk which is composed of cartilage and works as a cushion for the jaw joint could move out of its correct position. Regardless of what has provoked this you can end up with pain, grating or clicking noises when you open your mouth too wide and even a misaligned bite.
If you think you may have TMJ disorder look over these symptoms and see how many apply to you:
- Do you grind or clench your teeth?
- When you wake up are the muscles around your jaw stiff or sore?
- So you experience head and neck aches often?
- When you clench your teeth does the pain intensify?
- When stressed does the clenching or pain increase?
- When you open your mouth wide does your jaw pop, catch, click, grate or lock?
- Is it difficult or do you experience pain when you eat, yawn or open your mouth?
- Have you ever had an injury to your neck, jaws or head?
- Have any of your other joints experienced any problems such as arthritis?
- Do some of your teeth not make contact when you bite down?
- Are there times when your teeth meet differently?
- Is it difficulty to use your front teeth toe to tear or bite on food?
- Are your teeth worn. loose. broken or even just sensitive?
If you frequently answered yes then you probably are suffering from some kind of TMJ disorder. If you understand TMJ disorders it is easier to understand how to treat them.
Treatment For TMJ
When it comes to TMJ disorder there are various ways to treat them which will better the complete function of your jaw. Once we have examined your jaw and made a TMJ diagnostic we can then come up with the best treatment plan for you. A combination of self care and professional care is the best way to treat anything including TMJ. The first thing we want to do is bring relief to the joint area and minimize any muscle spasming. We can usually do this through the use of pain relievers, anti inflammatories and muscle relaxants. The use of injected steroids is another way to bring down inflammation and reduce pain.
There are also self care methods which can really help, here are a few of them:
- Rest your jaw.
- When you are not eating or swallowing keep your teeth apart.
- Eat soft and easy to chew foods.
- Use hot and cold applications.
- Exercise your jaw.
- Maintain good posture.
You can also use stress management techniques like physical therapy or biofeedback, there is also a clear plastic device called a splint which may be used temporarily. A splint, also known as a night-guard is used either on top of your upper or lower teeth and assist in keeping the teeth apart, this relaxes the muscles and reduces pain. There are various devices that can be used depending on the condition. A night guard prevents you from grinding or clenching your teeth at night which minimizes the tension you experience; it is also used as protection of the joint surfaces and cartilage. A anterior positioning device pushes the jaw forward, lowers the pressure on certain areas of the jaw and helps to re position the disk. This is usually worn all day every day and assists in the healing of your jaw. A device known as an orthotic stabilization device which can be worn daily or just at night to help re position your jaw. Sometime appliances are used to protect tooth wear.
Is Bite Correction or Surgery Necessary?
If you have developed problems with your teeth fitting together due to your TMJ disorder a bite adjustment treatment also known as equilibration may be needed or orthodontics that may or may not involve the reconstruction of the jaw or restorative work. There are times when you may have to consider arthroscopy or open joint repair restructuring may be needed, but surgical options are only for severe cases. Unless your jaw cannot open it is not reducible, has extreme degeneration, is dislocated or if device treatment has failed our doctors do not even consider TMJ jaw surgeries.
When Would Jaw Surgery be an Option?
If your bottom and top jaw are not properly meeting or if your teeth do not properly fit in the jaw area then orthognathic surgery would be in order. With orthodontics the teeth can be straightened and a misaligned jaw can be re-positioned with corrective jaw surgery. This not only aesthetically improves the face but also ensures that the teeth are meeting as they should and are able to properly function.
Who is a Candidate for Orthognathic Surgery?
If your bite is not correct or if the positioning of your jaw is off then you would be a candidate for orthognathic surgery. For a jaw to grow it takes time and sometimes the bottom and top jaw grow at a different pace. This can bring about a slew of problems which can affect appearance, speech, chewing function and even your long term oral health. Other factors that could affect the alignment of the jaw are birth defects and injury. If there is only a bite problem with just the teeth well that can be resolved by orthodontics however if re-positioning the actual jaw is necessary the is when orthognathic surgery may be what has to happen.
If you are having any of the following issues you should come in for an evaluation:
- Difficulty with biting, chewing and or swallowing.
- Speech issues.
- Pain in the jaw.
- An open bite.
- A protruding jaw.
- Problems with your breathing.
Some of these issues you may have been born with, you may develop them later on in life and can be hereditary or due to environmental effects they could also be because of a facial trauma you may have suffered. The first step to any treatment would be a consultation in which various tests including x-rays will be run. At this time it is important you ask your doctor any questions you may have in regards to your treatment as well as express any concerns. Once you are completely aware of your condition as well as the forms of treatment it is then time for you and your team of dental experts to come up with the best treatment plan.