“TMJ” is a jaw joint called the Temporo – Mandibular Joint located slightly below and front of your ears . It is a joint between the lower jaw (Mandible) and the skull (Temporal Bone).
TMJ Syndrome or Disorder (TMD) typically describes the malfunction of this joint which is marked with either popping, cracking sounds or pain which can be exacerbated by talking, laughing, chewing, sleep apnea or sleeping in poor positions which do not support the jaw.
There is no simple precursor to this condition and it is not limited to any particular age or type of person.
Your TMJ/jaw joint should be examined at your regular dental visits to assess and monitor any signs of the condition and possibly prevent further damage to the jaw joint.
There are several ways to tell if you suffer from this TMJ disorder prior to your exam. This list does not necessarily confirm diagnosis, however it is a start to know if there is a problem.
- Your jaw occasionally locks or it is difficult to open beyond a normal range
- Sounds like there\’s graininess, grating or similar noises from the area
- Pressure mimicking sinus pain against the eyes
- Tightness or painful neck, shoulder or upper back areas
- Direct pain around the actual join or swelling
- Muscular pain in the facial area
- Teeth are chipping easily or feel loose
- Migraine, stress or frequent headaches
- Ear pain, stuffy head/ears, or pinching/ringing in the ears
- Feelings of vertigo or dizziness
- Arms or fingers feel numb
- Having any difficulty swallowing even if with liquid
As with any other joint in the body, TMJ disorder symptoms may increase with age, especially if nothing is done to address the issues.
Treatment begins with a comprehensive exam with a specific Q&A related to the symptoms of the TMD. If the exam reveals any signs of TMD, further tests will be suggested according to the need.
Bad Habits often prove to further aggravate the condition in most patients, therefore your day to day routines will be discussed and suggestions will be made if there are areas where modifications can ease the distress of the joint.
Treatment options depend on your particular case. These can and may include adjustments to your jaw through the use of various appliances such as night gaurds of various types or even braces. Any of these would be beneficial in providing relief of the joint from grinding and clenching, or can be used to alter the position your jaw and subsequently release stress of the joint. Medications and physiotherapy can also be considered. Surgery is usually the option for severe cases
Rehabilitation of the joint is through a combined effort between the patient and healthcare provider. Following all instructions is paramount in receiving the relief from the distress of this condition.
Clenching or grinding of teeth can occur in children or adults. It can happen during the day or night. It can happen without the patient being aware that it is happening. It can have a specific or a vague or no cause. It is difficult to diagnose and explain.
When the transitions from baby teeth to adult teeth occur, children have been known to grind their teeth which is quite common. This type of grinding is typically mild and does not often present itself as problematic. It usually stops when the eruption of permanent teeth is complete and the bite is ok.
Stress is often said to be a common cause of clenching and grinding in children and adults. (usually before exams, tax season etc). It may be mild or severe. It could be strong enough to cause chipping, breaking, wearing down or even shifting position of the teeth, thus altering the bite.
A bad bite is another cause of grinding. Sometimes the body just tries to acclimatize the bite by grinding off any interferences. In this case orthodontics will be helpful
Sometimes there is no obvious cause and for that only the symptoms are treated.
Signs and/or Symptoms of TMJ disorder/distress brought on by stress can include, but are not limited to:
- Premature wear of the teeth (attrition)
- “Off” bite / Malocclusion
- Sensitivity when chewing or too hot/cold
- Teeth easily crack or break
- TMJ/TMD signs/symptoms
- Audible grinding through the night
- Headaches/Migraines/sinus pressure without other causes
Just as in the previous section, a comprehensive exam, evaluation and additional records such as x-rays would be needed to reach a diagnosis and to formulate a treatment plan.
Any damage to the teeth due to the bruxism must be addressed and treated first. These need to be resolved prior to treatments that involve the use of night guards or orthodontia.
These signs and symptoms signal the presence of a potentially damaging cycle which will not end on its own.
This is a nightguard that the patient usually starts off with. They can be soft, hard or a combination. The type will be picked based on our evaluation of your condition.
This is one of the signs of bruxism. The marks of the teeth are imprinted on your tongue. It happens over a period of time as you are sleeping clenched and your tongue is pressed against your teeth.
For severe bruxers and people who break the plastic ones often, a metal nightguard can be processed. They are not as thick, last longer and can be worn day and night.