TMJ and How It Can Be Prevented
Amazingly enough, the condition known as TMJ is far more common amongst many people, yet they may even not know it and don’t know what to do about it. The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) problem is on the rise due to the high-stress environment that we live in and the first sign of having it, is a clicking sound, sometimes very loudly of the jaw when chewing or yawning. Additionally, a grating sensation is also felt while opening the mouth. This problem can be prevented with the right knowledge and paying a visit to the dentist. However, moving further on how dentists can help first let us get to know what exactly is TMJ.
What is TMJ?
TMJ is not a single disorder but is a group of problems that involve joints around the jaw and the muscles. The temporomandibular joints connect the lower jaw to the skull in front of the ear and can cause discomfort and pain in this joint and the associated muscles. TMJ problems come into play when certain muscles that control chewing are affected. Conditions like neck pain, headaches, migraine, facial pain, shoulder and backache can all be caused, a jaw that is locked in position or difficult to open, problems with biting is also caused by the TMJ disorder.
Causes of TMJ
The cause for the temporomandibular joint disorder is not completely understood. However, multiple factors can contribute to muscle tightness and dysfunction. Causes of TMJ include grinding or clenching the teeth (bruxism) which put pressure on the joint, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the joint, injury to teeth or jaw, poor posture, arthritis and stress.
How to know that you have TMJ?
TMJ often causes severe pain and discomfort which may be temporary or last for many years and can affect one or both sides of your face. If you have been experiencing the following symptoms then it could be TMJ.
- Pain or tenderness on your face, jaw joint area and in or around the ear while chewing, speaking or when you open your mouth wide.
- If your jaws get stuck or lock in the open- or closed-mouth position.
- Popping in the jaw joint while opening or closing your mouth or chewing.
- Sudden uncomfortable bite as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly.
- Swelling on the side of your face.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and would like to find out more, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at one of our clinics. Our dentist will evaluate your jaw joints for pain or tenderness. An X-ray may be taken to examine the jaw joint.
If you have any of the above problems, we encourage that you schedule an appointment with the dentist.
Risks of TMJ
TMJ disorder is not dangerous but it is inconvenient and lead to long-term problems such as the risk of fractured teeth due to the misaligned jaw and can cause cosmetic dentistry problems. It affects your ability to wear veneers, crowns or implants in future if you need them for any cosmetic reason.
How can a dentist help?
Many people think of dentists as just teeth doctors, but they can treat a wide variety of conditions including the TMJ. A dentist can help diagnose TMJ and refer you to a specialist dentist for the further diagnosis.
As TMJ is caused by both tooth and jaw alignment problems, there are dental treatments that can help. Your dentist will suggest the use of braces which can help realign the teeth and jaws so that the mouth can close in proper position. If your TMJ disorder is due to teeth grinding or clenching, your dentist may recommend wearing a custom dental appliance such as bite plate or a splint. The dental appliances are fabricated by dental technicians who work in conjunction with dentists helping them, help patients get relief from TMJ disorder. Dental technicians or technologists are highly skilled personnel who have completed their dental technician training so you can rely on them. The bite guards fabricated by dental technicians will prevent wear on your teeth from grinding.
Other treatments for TMJ include using:
Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs – your dentist will prescribe you pain relievers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
Hot or cold packs – applying hot or cold packs can relieve you from swelling and pain.
Muscle relaxing medications – these types of drugs are used for few days or weeks to help relieve pain caused by TMJ disorder.
Relaxation techniques – learning a few relaxation techniques will help reduce tension in the jaw muscles and strengthen them. In certain cases, surgery may be required.
If you are concerned and think that you have the symptoms that indicate TMJ, please book an immediate appointment with your dentist and speak to them about it. We want you to get relief from pain and discomfort and always keep smiling.
Mathew is a highly-qualified educator and advisor with over 5 years of experience in the field of healthcare and writes articles about dental technology and the courses to undertake. He is currently working with Australian Centre for Further Education (ACFE), which excels in training international and domestic students to become qualified health practitioners in Australia.