Your temporomandibular joint or TMJ for short, is the hinge joint on either side of your lower jaw, just in front of your ear. When you open your mouth you can feel the TMJ moving with your fingers. But sometimes problems inside of the joint can cause issues like
- Difficulty eating
- Limited range of motion
- Grinding-type noises (crepitation)
- Deviation to one side
- Headaches or migraines
When these symptoms occur daily and impact your normal activities, TMJ Disorder (TMD/TMJD) is likely the cause. It’s common to see premature tooth wear coincide with other TMJ symptoms.
An overactive TMJ joint is frequently associated with things like stress, sleep apnea, clenching and grinding or even depression. More often than not it ties back to stressors in our everyday life, causing us to tighten the joint and strain the tissues around it.
Unfortunately, stress often isn’t something a person can just get rid of. Instead, we’re left with battling the symptoms of our bodies tensing up and feeling the strain of everyday life. Particularly with cases of TMJ disorder, which can involve nighttime bruxism (clenching and grinding) that we cannot consciously control.
TMJ disorder typically begins to develop when pressure and tension occur at high levels in and around the joint on a regular basis. This can be nighttime grinding for several weeks or months. Like an overused muscle, your TMJ will eventually respond with pain and tightness.
Tooth alignment is another factor that can contribute to TMD. Misaligned teeth and jaws require irregular joint motions to chew your food. In time, all of those atypical movements can take a physical strain on your TMJ.
The type of treatment that’s best for your TMD will depend on the underlying cause of the pain. Typically you’ll need temporary relief from an anti-inflammatory medication or moist heat. But the key is to prevent flare-ups by addressing them at the source. Here are just a few examples of what could make up a comprehensive TMD treatment plan.
Bite Splints – Protective mouthguards are typically the first recommendations for managing TMJ disorder. Especially if bruxism is involved. Most mouthguards or bite splints are worn at night while you’re sleeping. The appliance trains your jaw to relax by placing a buffer between your teeth, preventing the joints from fully engaging. Sleeping in a night guard can provide noticeable pain relief within just a couple of days. If you need an appliance to wear during the day, Dr. Okoro can fit you with one of those as well.
Even if you continue clenching and grinding your teeth, a mouthguard will prevent your teeth from wearing against one another. It’s better for the acrylic in your bite splint to wear down than it is your natural smile.
Orthodontic Therapy/Invisalign® – Misaligned teeth alter the entire function of your mouth and TMJ. Imagine if you were to walk down the road where one side was sloped lower than the other. Within a mile or two, one of your knees or hips would probably start to hurt due to the uneven pressure.
The same type of scenario can occur if it’s your teeth not chewing properly. Orthodontic treatments such as Invisalign can align your teeth so that your jaw doesn’t have to compensate. An added benefit is that you can reduce irregular enamel wear throughout your mouth.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exercise – Stress isn’t something that we can usually make a choice to remove from our lives. But sessions with a trusted counselor can teach us how to manage stressors in a healthier manner that’s gentler on our bodies. Calming techniques, meditation and even vigorous exercise can all be useful for some individuals.
Botox® Injectables – As more case studies present themselves, some specialists are incorporating Botox therapy to manage TMJ pain. Since the medication is a natural muscle relaxant, it eases tension and corresponding headache symptoms.
Think a TMJ mouthguard may be the right option for your jaw pain? Contact our office to reserve an appointment. All we need to fabricate your appliance is a quick impression of your teeth. Your new splint will be ready in a matter of days. We’ll walk you through common causes to try to pinpoint other factors that may need your attention to keep symptoms at bay.
Tired of living in pain? For TMJ care in Largo, contact EZE Dental today.
CONTACT US »