Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMJD, is a condition that affects the jaw joint and surrounding muscles and nerves. Although TMJ Disorder is not life
threatening, it can be detrimental to quality of life since the symptoms can become chronic and difficult to manage. People with TMJ disorders may exhibit a variety of symptoms including:
- Pain in the chewing muscles and/or jaw joint soreness
- Radiating pain in the face, jaw, neck or head.
- Aching pain in and around ears.
- Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing.
- Limited movement or locking jaw.
- Painful jaw clicking, popping or grinding when opening or closing the mouth.
- Headaches or Migraines.
- Pain in many places on one side of the body.
How do you know if your symptoms such as headaches are coming from the jaw if there is no jaw pain? Our office uses an “Aqualizer” which is an inexpensive appliance that is placed in between the upper and lower teeth to hold the bite open. If the symptoms are in any way relieve that’s a correlation, that the jaw is responsible for the symptomatology.
What are the Traditional TMJD Pain Treatments?
Dentists in Italy did a really great study of approximately 100 TMJD patients. They examined all of them and then fitted all of them with foot orthotics. Approximately 35% of the TMJD patients symptoms resolved without dental care. This confirms our knowledge that in order for a jaw to function correctly so must all of the muscles of the neck and shoulders. Unlevel shoulders are typically the issue. The gait mechanism which involves neurologic connections between our feet and pelvis is at fault. That’s why we thoroughly examine these areas no matter what your complaints are.
Dental intervention: day or night bite splints are the most traditional form of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) treatment. These are plastic mouthpieces that fit over the upper or lower teeth to prevent the teeth from coming together and reduce the amount of clenching or grinding of the teeth. Because upper bite splints do not allow for proper cranial movement our office prefers mandibular splints.
While bite guards and jaw splints have helped to reduce pain associated with TMJD, there are drawbacks with these devices. For example, they cannot be worn while eating and they also affect speech, and as such are typically only worn at night while sleeping. Studies have been performed on the effectiveness of splints and guards and the results have been inconsistent. There are also risks associated with the use of these devices such as changes in the bite, long-term damage to the joint, and increased pain. In addition, the adverse effects of the use of splints can be permanent. Mostly from using the splints too long and not seeking proper dental care.