The jaw joint — temporomandibular joint — is one of the most flexible joints in the body and serves an important role of connecting the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone).
However, when the jaw is misaligned, a host of painful and limiting symptoms may occur. From headaches to neck and facial pain, it can be debilitating. Not to mention the future oral health problems that arise from untreated TMJ. That’s why it’s vital to seek help sooner rather than later when suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
Call 403-253-1248 today to schedule a consultation and see how we can properly treat your TMJ.
What is TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is not a single condition, but rather a number of conditions that are caused by jaw misalignment. This neuromuscular disorder often results in migraine-like headaches and other painful symptoms, yet remains one of the most commonly overlooked causes of chronic facial neck and shoulder pain.
When left untreated, TMJ can lead to progressively worsening pain and can also contribute to oral health problems including premature wear of your teeth and periodontal disease. It’s important to know that TMJ is a degenerative disease and does not get better without treatment.
Symptoms of TMJ include:
• Clicking or popping noises when chewing
• Grinding noises when moving the jaw
• Pain and/or swelling around the jaw joint
• Limited jaw movement
• Complete lockjaw
• Sleep Apnea
Furthermore, running through the jaw is the trigeminal nerve – the largest of the cranial nerves – and it is pressure placed on this nerve from jaw misalignment that can cause many of the symptoms of TMJ that occur outside of the immediate area of the jaw.
Issues that can be caused by TMJ that may seem unrelated to the jaw joint include:
• Chronic, migraine-style headaches
• Tinnitus (ear ringing)
• Ear pressure or pain without the presence of infection
• Pressure behind the eyes
• Generalized facial pain
• Pain in the neck, shoulders, or back
Lastly, TMJ may also cause increased tooth sensitivity, difficulties swallowing and, when left undiagnosed and untreated, changes to your posture.
Risk Factors When TMJ is Not Properly Treated
A “risk factor” is a condition that increases your chances of developing a disease or disorder. It is possible to have TMJ without having any of the risk factors discussed below, but the more risk factors you have, the more likely it is you will develop this disorder.
Some of the most common risk factors for TMJ include:
If your teeth are not in proper alignment, your jaw muscles will experience constant stress trying to shift your bite back into a manageable position, leading to TMJ.
Stress causes many people to habitually grind or clench their teeth at night, and sometimes even during the day. This constant wear can change the shape of your teeth and bite, eventually causing TMJ.
◦ Some people are born with facial bone deformities that affect how their jaw functions and/or how their bite comes together.
◦ If you suffer from bad posture due to a spinal misalignment or other issues with body mechanics and stability, TMJ is a common result.
Certain arthritic conditions can damage the cartilage that lines your joints, changing and degrading bone, resulting in TMJ.
This condition involves inflammation of your synovial membrane, which lines the temporomandibular joint.
Jaw or facial injuries:
TMJ can result any time one of your facial bones suffers a traumatic injury, such as a fracture or dislocation.
Women are three times more likely to develop TMJ than men.
Your TMJ treatment options depend on the circumstances of your condition. In some cases, the uncomfortable symptoms of TMJ can be relieved by creating a nighttime grinding appliance to help protect the muscles, teeth and jaw joints from the forces of nighttime grinding.
Patients whose TMJ is caused by bite conditions or significant jaw alignment problems that are not alleviated by use of a nighttime grinding appliance may benefit from the use of an oral appliance worn during the day.
Other long-term solutions include:
Coronoplasty/Equilibration – This is the simplest course of treatment and is used when your bite is only slightly misaligned. Our dentists will re-shape and smooth the enamel of your teeth, thus correcting your teeth and bite, alleviating your headaches without needing an anesthetic.
Permanent Orthotic – If needed, our dentists can bond an orthotic designed to maintain a relaxed, natural bite to your teeth or a removable long-term orthotic.
Reconstruction – Used if your teeth are severely damaged or if the misalignment is significant, full smile reconstruction involves layering porcelain onto your teeth to maintain your bite.
Braces – If your TMJ symptoms are caused by a misaligned bite but your teeth are healthy, our dentists might recommend fixing the problem with braces or Invisalign®.
In all cases, TMJ treatment will occur in phases, allowing for long-term results and a lasting relief from pain.
At Macleod Trail Dental, we are invested in our patients’ dental health and provide a wide range of professional services to help keep your mouth, teeth, and gums as healthy as possible.
To find out more about our TMJ treatments, give us a call at 403-253-1248 or book an appointment.