(temporomandibular joint – the hinge joint between the temporal bone and the lower jaw.)
Do your jaw joints pop or click? What about neck pain, dizziness or ringing in your ears? Do you ever get “lock-jaw” or have a difficult time opening all the way to eat? You may be experiencing symptoms related to the TMJ.
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located just in front of your ear and is one of the most complex joints in your body. Surrounding the TMJ is an intricate system of muscles, nerves and blood vessels found in this area. Temporomandibular Disease (TMD) refers to a long list of disorders that impact the joints, head, neck and mouth.
Three Working Parts
The bite, the muscles, and the TMJ are all part of a very intricate system that work together to position the jaws and teeth for function. The bite itself will dominate the position of our jaws, leaving the muscles and the TMJ to deal with any stress of poor alignment. This physical stress results in degenerative changes in the TMJ itself, and that results in the pain and discomfort you experience.
How is it treated?
Treating the TMJ ultimately requires that the imbalance between your jaws and teeth are resolved, so your bite and the position of your joints are in harmony with your musclces.
Symptomatic Splint Therapy
A TMJ splint is used to correct the discrepancy of your bite. The splint places your bite in a specific position to enhance the position of your TMJ for healing.
Treatment of the Mid-Face
The imabalance itself is normally created by a deficiency of jaw development and a poor bite. Treating this is normally a way to resolve your TMJ issues.
Treatment of the Bite
Treating the bite itself can often be all that’s needed. If the jaw relationship can be managed with the bite, restorative solutions are often considered.
A Combination of Both
Oftentimes, the jaws and the bite must both be addressed, but results in a healthier face and bite. This improves the jaws, teeth, TMJ, and muscles.
Temporomandibular Dysfunction or (TMD) refers to a long list of disorders that impact the joints, head, neck and mouth. This dysfunction, caused by an imbalance in your bite, can occur as a result of inadequate jaw growth, recent dental work, abnormal muscle activity, or injury.
Injury to the jaw from car-wrecks or facial blows can cause damage to the joint itself, triggering TMD over time. On occasion, the injury even goes unfound.
The most common cause of TMD comes from the poor positioning of the upper and lower jaws as a result of poor development during adolescent ages.
TMD can result from teeth that are poorly aligned from previous dental work or orthodontics that didn’t consider the jaws’ overall position within the face.
Symptoms Related to TMD
Symptoms vary for patients suffering from TMD. That’s because the TMJ and the muscles of the face both work together to manage the stress of poor alignment.
When the discs of the TMJ aren’t able to remain in their proper place, they can begin holding up the joint from translating normally, limiting how far you can open.
Pain from the ear can come from referred pain of the muscles and or directly from the ear and the small ligaments that run between the join and the inner ear.
Ringing in the Ears
Ringing in the ear or “tinnitus” as it’s called can result from tension of the muscles and tendons around the inner that become fatigued or inflamed around the TMJ.
Pain When Chewing
Inflammation from the capsule of the TMJ and or the muscles associated with the posture and function of the jaw may all lead to discomfort and pain when chewing.
Grinding Sounds in the Joint
When the disc begins to degenerate, areas of the condyle (the neck of the lower jaw) may begin to rub directly against the base of the cranium, resulting in grinding sounds from bone on bone wear.
Clicking Popping of the Joints
When we open our mouth and the lower jaw begins to rotate, displaced discs may return to their normal position, creating a “clicking” or “popping” sound. They normally do the same when you close once again.
When the discs are displaced and won’t return to their normal position, they can keep you from opening much at all without pain. A term commonly referred to as “lockjaw”.
If the disc of the joints aren’t oriented properly, the jaw will not be able to open symmetrically from side to side, often resulting in the jaw opening and moving to one side or another.
Posterior Tooth Wear
One of the most common signs of a TMJ disorder is tooth wear on the last molars. Since the lower jaw opens in an arc, the last teeth in the mouth are the first to make contact when TMJ derangement occurs, leading to abnormal wear on these teeth.
What to Do?
Usually the problem seems pretty small. “It only happens when…” Then comes a day where it affects daily life. You have to be careful what foods you eat or can’t leave home without your favorite OTC headache relief. As the problem becomes chronic, the discomfort spreads. Take control and let’s find a solution. Give us a call and let’s set up a consultation!
Schedule a Consult
Schedule a virtual or in-office consultation. Let’s diagnose the problem and discuss some solutions!
Review the Problem
We’ll find a time to gather the data we need so we can review your specific findings and explain a path forward for life-long relief.
Plan a Solution
With a proper diagnosis and a clear path forward, you can finally have control over the problem that you’re living with everyday.
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“Dr. Smith and his team are incredibly kind, caring, and fun! I live in Tulsa but make the short drive to downtown Broken Arrow just for their service. I highly recommend them for all your dentistry and cosmetic needs.”
Got questions about TMJ?
Here’s what we’ve seen individuals ask the most often:
What is the TMJ?
The TMJ is a highly specialized joint that sits just in front of your ears. It actually connects your lower jaw bone to your skull. Any dysfunction or pain in this joint is referred to as TMD or temporomandibular disorder.
My joint pops, but why should I be concerned?
Popping in a joint indicates that there is a problem with the relationship of the jaw joint and your skull. Even though there isn’t any pain at this time, there is still damage to the joint occurring. Some patients will even experience all popping going away only to return later and be much worse or more painful. There are also other symptoms you may not realize are related to your joint: frequent headaches/migraines, ear ringing, vertigo, ear pain or fullness, chipped teeth, soreness in the muscles of your head/neck or jaw as well as difficulty opening your mouth wide and having your jaw gets locked closed or open.
What if I was told that the only way to fix my joint would be through surgery?
At one point surgery was the most common way to resolve the problem. However, most discovered that it didn’t truly provide a long term solution. It takes specialized training for a dentist to learn the techniques necessary to resolve the pain associated with TMD, luckily the dentists at Breathe Modern Dentistry have pursued specialized training giving them many ways to help.
What does treatment normally involve?
For the majority of TMJ patients, treatment starts with a special orthotic (splint) designed to realign the joints with the base of the cranium. This first step will begin the healing process and it’s where you will see your symptoms begin to improve. Some patients will only require orthotics. Most of the time we will recommend following the orthotic with Functional Orthodontics to align the teeth so that they support a healthy joint. The true cause of most joint problems is a misalignment of the top and bottom jaw, actually locking the joint in a position that causes damage. At RMD we believe that the ideal treatment for TMD ultimately ends with braces. When we only use the orthotic to resolve the symptoms, the patient ends dependent on that splint. If it becomes lost or broken and pain returns, the treatment will have to start back at step 1.
Make an appointment today!
The easiest thing to do is to call us at 918.393.0070 so we can schedule your appointment or simply fill out the form below. But if it’s after hours or we’re enjoying our weekend as well, drop a message below and we’ll get right back to you.