TMJ and Bruxism

Escape the daily grind

We all grind our teeth or clench our jaw sometimes but if it occurs consistently it may be ‘Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction”, which should be treated to prevent damage to your teeth and/or bite.

Your ‘TMJs’ (temporomandibular joints) are connectors between the lower jaw and the skull, which help you to open and close your mouth. Left unchecked, the constant grinding or clenching of the jaw associated with TMJ dysfunction can result in facial pain, neck and jaw ache, shoulder pain, neck pain and even ear ache.

If you have noticed a clicking jaw or perhaps find it painful to eat or open wide enough to clean your teeth, the good news is TMJ treatments can usually correct the problem.

If you have some or all of the described TMJ symptoms, visit your dentist to discuss the matter. Depending on your case, you may be referred to a specialist in neuromuscular dentistry to help you get the best possible TMJ relief.

To book an appointment contact us or keeping reading to find out more about TMJ dysfunction.

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Understanding the TMJ Treatment

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) refers to the two joints located in front of the ears, and is located where the upper and lower jaws connect. In certain situations the disc within the joint, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position and adversely affect the ability to open and close the mouth, chew, swallow, breath, talk and even yawn.

Symptoms

There are many symptoms that may indicate a problem with TMJ dysfunction:

  • Sore, stiff muscles around your jaw in the morning
  • Frequent headaches or neck aches
  • Clenching your teeth increases the pain
  • Stress makes your clenching and pain worse
  • Your jaw clicks, pops, grates, catches or your jaw locks when opening your mouth
  • It becomes difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat or yawn
  • Some teeth no longer touch when you bite
  • Your teeth meet differently from time to time
  • It becomes hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food
  • Teeth are sensitive, loose, broken or worn
  • Problems (such as arthritis) with other joints

Diagnosis of TMJ Dysfunction

Diagnosis begins with a physical examination that may include digital manipulation (i.e., using fingers) to inspect the TMJ area and the surrounding muscles to identify any inflammation and isolate the origins of any pain.

An assessment for TMJ Dysfunction will also consider the history of the patient and refer to previous x-rays to determine any identifiable changes in bite or shifts in the position of the jaw.

Depending on the complexity of the dysfunction, x-ray techniques may be necessary in order to carefully detail activity around the TMJ.

If clenching or grinding (bruxism) is identified as the source of the problem, X-rays may also be needed to rule out any underlying damage to the structure of the teeth or bone.

Treating Diagnosed TMJ Dysfunction

Treatment of TMJ Dysfunction varies depending on the severity of each individual case. In many instances, the underlying causes of TMJ can be addressed with simple steps that will relieve pressure on the joints and give them time to return to a normal, functional state.

Such steps may include the simple act of avoiding activity that may place it under strain, including singing, particularly chewy foods and gums, hyper-extended yawning and in some cases, patients may even be advised to avoid long spells of kissing.

If stress is identified as an underlying factor, patients may be encouraged to reduce caffeine intake, avoid the consumption of energy drinks and certain drugs that can increase the likelihood of grinding or clenching the teeth.

One of the most common and effective responses to TMJ treatment is the use of an occlusal splint or plate, which is worn at night over the upper or lower teeth. It is a thin plastic that prevents the teeth and jaw from becoming fully compacted as a result of grinding or clenching during sleep.

Advanced Treatment

If more conservative forms of treatment do not reduce the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction, physiotherapy may be recommended but if symptoms persist, there are a number of more advanced treatments that may be considered.

  • Cortisone injections into the joint to reduce inflammation
  • Arthroscopic surgery, which is a minimally invasive procedure allowing for a closer examination and possible treatment of the interior of the joint.
  • Open surgery.

Such advanced treatments require careful consultation and planning. No such treatment will ever be advanced in the absence of agreement with the patient.

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