Rochedale Dental Group

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Mon:8am – 5:30pm
Tue: 8am – 5:30pm
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‘TMJ Dysfunction’ Spells a Problem Jaw

Have you ever experienced a stiff or painful jaw, locking of your jaw, or painful clicking and popping? If so, you may have Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ or TMD). This is a very long name for problems with the joint and muscles that connect your jaw to your skull.

The Temporomandibular Joint is a complex joint that allows you to perform all the movements necessary to talk, eat and yawn. It performs two basic movements: a hinge action and sliding motions, and these are combined in a variety of ways. As with any moving part dentist of your body, the parts of the bones the come into contact with the joint are covered with cartilage and are separated by a disk that acts as a shock-absorber, keeping the movement smooth.

TMJ Dysfunction can be caused by a number of problems. The disk might become worn or dislodged from its normal position, or the joint’s cartilage might be damaged by arthritis (as any joint in the body can be). Any blow to the jaw can cause TMJ Dysfunction, or muscle fatigue can occur from clenching or grinding your teeth. Pain and limitation of movement is almost always associated with TMJ Dysfunction.

Researchers have identified several risk factors. Women between the ages of 30 and 50 appear to have a higher incidence of TMJ Dysfunction then the rest of the community. If you were born with a deformity of your facial bones, there is a higher chance you might develop TMJ. People who experience chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep disorders, fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis have been known to suffer from TMJ at times.

The good news is that, whatever the cause, this can be a temporary condition that can disappear with little or no treatment. You can be gentle with yourself by eating soft foods or applying ice packs to the jaw. If, after a few days, you are still experiencing a range of pain – from the jaw joint to headaches or neck pain, and you are experiencing a change in the way your upper and lower teeth fit together, it’s wise to consult your dentist.

Your dentist will check your bite, and check for any teeth that are preventing a normal bite, and will seek to isolate the source of the pain. He/she will also listen to and feel your jaw as it moves and will seek to understand if you are experiencing any lifestyle issues (such as stress or anxiety) that might be contributing to your problems. You may be required to have an X-ray, CT scan or MRI, to check for any problems with the joint.

If tooth grinding appears to be causing problems, your dentist may recommend a bite guard to prevent you from grinding your teeth while you sleep. If necessary, you may need a prescription for pain relief or other drugs, or possibly cortiosteriod drugs to relieve joint inflammation. Medications will only be given if there is a clear identified problem, which they can alleviate.

If your dentist has identified a problem with your bite, there will be corrective dental treatment available to address this. This may involve work to even the biting surface of your teeth or replace missing teeth.

In rare cases the joint itself may require remedial work. If it is inflamed, it may require Arthocentesis, which involves inserting a needle in the joint to irrigate it and remove any inflammatory debris that might be causing pain and discomfort. In even more rare cases, surgery might be required to repair or replace the joint. However, this is only used in extreme cases.

The vast majority of cases of TMJ Dysfunction can be treated simply and easily, either by gentle home treatments, or by simple dental treatments.