Causes of TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorders)
Problems such as headaches, jaw and neck pain, ear aches, popping sounds in the jaw, the inability to fully open the mouth, and various other types of facial pain, are sometimes symptoms of a TMJ disorder.
Many TMJ-related symptoms are caused by the effects of physical and emotional stress on the structures around the joint. These structures include the muscles of the jaw, face, and neck; the teeth; the cartilage disc at the joint; and nearby ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves. For example, daily stress can lead you to clench and grind your teeth, both during the day and while you sleep, causing pressure on the muscles, tissues, and other structures around your jaw. Often, people who clench their teeth also grind them. Grinding is when you slide your teeth over each other, generally in a sideways, back-and-forth movement, and will often wear down your teeth.
Other possible causes of TMJ-related symptoms include arthritis, trauma from accidents such as fractures and dislocations, and structural problems present since birth. Whatever the cause, TMJ disorders often lead to serious dental problems and significant discomfort.
Diagnosing and Treatment of TMJ
Our diagnosis of a TMJ disorder includes a complete examination of your head, neck and face. We also take x-rays of the temporomandibular joint itself, and review your medical history. Upon diagnosis, treatment usually takes place in two phases. In Phase One, we use “reversible treatment” to relieve symptoms and provide diagnostic information. This may include a specially-made mouth guard called an “orthotic appliance,” anti-inflammatory medications, jaw exercises, physical therapy and stress management. In Phase Two, we adjust or correct the occlusion in order to provide an ideal bite. This can involve restorative work such as crowns, bridges, or fillings; orthodontics; or physical therapy. In rare instances, surgery on the temporomandibular joint itself might be necessary.
At Dental Associates, your personal dentist is trained to recognize and coordinate the treatment of TMJ disorders with our on-staff specialists, for comprehensive, convenient care available at all five of our offices.