The jaw is attached to your head at two points – the jaw joints. These two joints, called the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, are located on each side of your head. Most people do not pay them much attention until there is some pain or other problem involved. Because the joint is complex, allowing for several types of motion, problems and jaw pain can develop and treatment with TMJ dentistry will be necessary.
When there is a problem with the temporomandibular joint, it is called a temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJD. Many of the problems involving the TMJ will only be temporary and they will usually resolve on their own within a month or two. Ongoing problems will need TMJ medical therapy.
The types of TMJD problems will vary, but women are more likely to have them than men, at a ratio of 9 to1. The problems may include:
When you have these symptoms, the first thing you want to do is to try some jaw exercises. There are several that will help. Some over-the-counter pain medications may help, as well as hot and cold packs. Massaging your jaw joints may help provide more relief. Eating soft foods and not chewing gum will also help your jaw muscles to relax.
When these problems persist, it is time to have them looked at by a dentist. A dentist is an expert on the jaw and some have special training for TMJ problems. A diagnosis will involve an x-ray and possibly a CT scan or MRI. Medications may be prescribed for pain and inflammation, along with muscle relaxers. A cortisone injection, or Botox, may also help to bring jaw pain relief.
TMJ medical therapy will depend on the cause of the problem. Oral splints may be used, and teeth guards may help if the problem is caused by teeth grinding. Counseling may also be given to help you understand the cause so that they can be avoided. If you tend to grind your teeth while you sleep, you may need to be tested for sleep apnea.
Surgical intervention may also be needed in more extreme cases. Champion Dental can provide these techniques also. They may involve cleaning out the jaw joint (arthrocentesis) of debris, arthroscopy – surgery with a minimally-invasive technique, or open-joint surgery.
TMJ problems are often caused by grinding your teeth while you sleep. Many people that have this habit are not aware of it, but your teeth will show evidence of it. This enables a dentist to be able to tell just by taking a glance at your teeth.
Other pieces of evidence of grinding your teeth will be seen in other ways, too. Putting pressure on your jaw from grinding or clenching your teeth for prolonged periods can cause several symptoms. You may have:
Getting your teeth repaired after your teeth are damaged from grinding for long periods can be very costly. It will also wear down your teeth and ruin your smile. Stopping the damage from progressing can be done with an occlusal night guard. This will protect your teeth while you sleep – even if you still grind your teeth. The night guard will not prevent you from grinding them, but it can prevent more damage from occurring.
The first thing you need to do to help stop the teeth grinding (bruxism) is to take some steps to reduce your stress. As your stress increases, you will naturally grind your teeth even more. You can learn to relax more by taking walks regularly, exercising, take a warm bath or shower before going to bed, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol after dinner.
You may also want to be tested for sleep apnea. Most people who have sleep apnea do grind their teeth – but not all of them. Your bed partner will be able to tell you if your breathing stops while you are sleeping. Sleep apnea is worse than teeth grinding because it can cause serious problems with your overall health and it will shorten your life. A sleep test is necessary for a diagnosis.
The best kind of occlusal guard to protect your teeth is one that is made by your dentist. These are custom-fitted and will be more comfortable than other types. This enables them to be a little thinner than other ones, and they are still certainly thick enough to protect your teeth.
If your jaw joints hurt and you need relief, as well as TMJ dentistry, the dentists at Champion Dental can help you. We provide various types of TMJ medical therapy to treat the problem as well as night guards to help protect your teeth if you have sleep apnea. We accept most dental insurance plans. You can set up a consultation or get more information about TMJ treatments by contacting the office today.