TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT DISORDERS
Your temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, are the two large joints that connect your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull. It is upon these joints that your jaw pivots to open, close, and move as needed to speak, and to bite and chew your food. Since they move in tandem, your TMJs require proper alignment and balance to operate properly. When this balance is disturbed, or when your jaw joints and muscles are exposed to too much pressure, you may experience a TMJ disorder—one of a group of dysfunctions that can cause a wide variety of symptoms.
What Are TMJ Disorders?
A TMJ disorder can describe any of a number of issues that affect your jaw’s joints. For instance, the joint’s disk can become dislocated; the joints can become swollen and inflamed; or traumatic force can seriously injure your jaw. In most cases, however, TMJ disorder means that the joints no longer function properly, or are forced to do so in a way that creates undue stress and pressure. Though the causes are diverse, they can often include;
- Crooked teeth, which can throw your bite off-balance
- Bruxism, or teeth-grinding, which can place excessive pressure on your TMJs
- An unusually high amount of stress or anxiety, which can cause excessive tension in your muscles
- Tooth loss, which can also throw your bite off balance
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
Your trigeminal nerves—the three-branch nerves that traverse each side of your jaw and face—account for the majority of sensory input from all of your nerve groups. When your TMJ’s are inflamed, misaligned, dislocated, or damaged, the disturbance to the nearby nerves can spread throughout your jaw, mouth, face, head, neck, and shoulders. As a result, common symptoms of TMJ disorders can include (but are not limited to);
- Severe headaches, including migraines
- Tinnitus, or chronic ringing and/or pain in the ears
- Popping and clicking noises when you open and close your jaw
- Stiff, sometimes locked jaw muscles
- Sore facial and neck muscles, or sore muscles in your shoulders and upper back
- Sudden, intense tension (spasms) in your jaw, face, neck, and shoulder muscles
- Unconscious teeth-grinding (bruxism)
- And more
Treatment Options for TMJ Disorders
Often, treating TMJ disorders requires case-specific attention, like Invisalign® treatment to straighten crooked teeth or dental implants to replace missing ones. In many cases, however, we can relieve the symptoms with a custom-made dental appliance. Similar to an athletic mouthguard (but smaller, and more comfortable), your custom appliance will position your jaw to rest more comfortably while you sleep. The guard can also protect your teeth from grinding against each other if your TMJ disorder is accompanied by bruxism. After a thorough examination, we can determine if a sleepguard will suffice to treat your TMJ dysfunction, or if you may require the expertise of an oral surgeon or other specialist.
Thank you so much for making me comfortable and taking the fear out of going to the dentist.
– Travis R.
Related TMJ/TMD Articles
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TMD, or Temporomandibular Disorders, is an umbrella term for various painful conditions that affect the jaw joints. There are different treatment approaches to TMD problems, but not all are based on science. It’s important to be up on the latest information and to be an educated consumer. In this comprehensive article, Dear Doctorprovides state-of-the-art information and guidance on what you should know, whom you should see, and what you should ask… Read Article
Ease Chronic Pain with TMJ Treatment
If you suffer from chronic headaches and other discomfort but aren’t sure why, then ask your dentist about the possibility of TMJ disorder. To schedule an appointment, call our dental office in Butler, PA today at (724) 256-4612. Our Smile Certified experts happily serve patients from Butler, Cranberry Township, Mars, Pittsburgh, Butler County, and all surrounding communities.