The Importance of a Healthy TMJ
Every day, your mouth is responsible for several essential functions. Whether you are aware of them or not, your mouth is made up of several components that work together to enable you to comfortably eat, speak, smile, and express yourself. When all of the components of your mouth are healthy, they function seamlessly and without issue. However, when excessive wear or facial trauma occur, the affected components can become irritated and inflamed. This can cause a significant amount of pain and affect your mouth’s ability to comfortably perform basic functions.
One of these essential components of your mouth is your temporomandibular joints. When these joints become injured or irritated, it can make it almost impossible to eat and speak. Luckily, OHIOSmiles is here to help.
What Is Your TMJ?
The TMJ is your temporomandibular joints. You have two of these joints in your mouth, with one located on each side of your face. These joints are connect your lower jaw, called the mandible, to your skull. The TMJ is a ball and socket joints with a disc in the center. The disc functions to absorb the impact that your jaw places on the TMJ.
Your TMJ play a crucial role in the function of your mouth. These joints, in addition to the attached muscles, bones, and ligaments, are responsible for the comfortable movement of your mouth. You use them to open and close your mouth and move your mandible from side to side. These joints allow you to bite, chew, speak, and so much more.
What Issues Can Affect The Health Of My TMJ?
TMJ disorder, or TMD, is a term that refers to any one of many issues that can affect the health and functioning of your TMJ. TMD can also affect the functioning of the bones, muscles, and ligaments that are attached to your TMJ. When even one these components are injured, irritated, or inflamed, the functioning of the mouth can be significantly impaired. Biting, chewing, swallowing, speaking, and even just opening your mouth can become incredibly difficult and excruciatingly painful.
Common issues that can affect the health and functioning of your temporomandibular joints include :
- Bruxism—Bruxism is the term for grinding and clenching your teeth. While it the behavior can occur at any time of day, it tends to happen more frequently while you sleep. During the daytime, you are more often aware of grinding and clenching, giving you the chance to stop the action. However, while you sleep, you do not have the same control over your muscles. This allows your teeth to grind and clench unchecked. Bruxism can occur for many different reasons, such as stress, tobacco use, stimulants, and poor teeth alignment. Bruxism causes your jaw and TMJ to undergo excessive pressure, which can tire the jaw and irritate the joints.
- Facial Trauma—Trauma to your face and mouth can be caused by incidents like a car accident, a sports-related injury, or even a simple fall. These issues can cause significant harm to your jaw and TMJ.
- Jaw Dislocation—Dislocation of your jaw occurs at the TMJ. Even temporary dislocation, possibly resulting from whiplash, can cause tears in the joints that can lead to inflammation.
- Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis—Osteoarthritis is a condition in which cartilage begins to deteriorate. Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation in your joints, including your TMJ. Both of these conditions can be the cause of TMD symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms Of TMJ Disorder?
Because TMD has many different causes, the symptoms you experience can vary. Additionally, most symptoms of TMD won’t occur all at once. Instead, they can come on gradually and inconsistently.
You may experience only minor discomfort at first. This is often tolerable, sometimes barely noticeable. However, the longer your TMD goes untreated, the worse your symptoms can become. Symptoms that can indicate a TMJ disorder include:
- Pain in your jaw and facial joints
- Pain or difficulties while biting and chewing
- Trouble speaking properly
- A clicking, popping, or grinding sound or sensation when you move your mouth
- Your jaw locking open or shut. This locking is only temporary, but you may be unable to move your jaw until the joint loosens up.
- Chronic headaches or earaches. Pain in your TMJ can radiate to nearby structures, including up into your head or your ears.
How Is TMJ Disorder Diagnosed?
Given that TMJ disorders can have multiple causes, pinpointing the exact reason for your pain can be difficult on your own. If you are experiencing pain and discomfort in your jaw and TMJ, it is essential that you schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
When you visit our office, we’ll discuss your symptoms and perform a thorough oral examination of your mouth. We’ll look over your teeth and assess wear patterns, looking for signs of damage. We’ll also evaluate your jaw, looking for alignment issues. Next, images will be taken of your mouth, which may include digital X-rays and 3D CT scans.
These images will allow us to see the hidden structures of your mouth, including the roots of your teeth, jawbone, muscles, ligaments, and the TMJ. Afterwards, we’ll be able to determine the exact cause of your TMJ disorder and the severity of the issue. This enables us to provide you with the most effective treatment plan possible.
Treating TMJ Issues With Home Remedies
For minor TMJ disorder, it may be possible to find relief with home remedies. There are a few different remedies that can alleviate TMJ discomfort, including:
- Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers—Minor discomfort can often be managed using OTC NSAID pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen. In addition to alleviating pain, they can also help to deal with inflammation.
- Ice Packs and Heat Packs—Both ice and heat can be used to manage minor pain and swelling.
- Relaxation Techniques—Different relaxation techniques can help you deal with TMJ disorders related to stress. There are a few different methods that can help deal with stress. These tactics include meditation, deep breathing, calming music, and yoga. For many, stress can be alleviated simply by pursuing an enjoyable hobby such as reading, writing, knitting, or cooking.
- Eating a TMJ-Friendly Diet—With TMJ disorder, eating certain types of foods can become difficult. Some of the most troublesome might require you to open your mouth wide, or are very hard, crunchy, chewy, or sticky. Trying to eat these foods when your jaw is already irritated and inflamed can cause further discomfort. Instead, you could stick to a TMJ-friendly diet, opting for softer foods that are much easier to chew.
Treatment With Oral Appliances
Grinding and clenching your teeth, an activity that frequently occurs at night, can lead to significant TMJ discomfort. An oral appliance, also called a night guard or occlusal splint, is a device that is worn over your teeth while you sleep. It is similar in design to a sports mouthguard.
An oral appliance performs two functions. One major function of the device is to provide a cushion for your teeth and jaws. The oral appliance absorbs the impact of grinding and clenching, preventing pressure on your teeth, your jaws, and your TMJ. The other function of the device is to keep your jaw in proper alignment, preventing your mandible from sliding backwards.
You can find oral appliances for sale at your local pharmacy. However, these appliances are not generally recommended. While marketed as an affordable option, there is no guarantee that the one you purchase will fit your mouth properly. Ill-fitting oral appliances can cause more problems than they solves. They can fall out of your mouth while you sleep or interfere with your ability to breath comfortably through the night.
At OHIOSmiles, we recommend a professionally made oral appliance. We customize your oral appliance for you based on impressions of your mouth. Not only does this ensure a proper fit, it also allows us to take your bite into consideration. This enables your oral appliance to provide you with optimal benefits. Our custom oral appliances are made from high-quality materials, allowing them to last longer than store bought alternatives.
When you hear the word Botox, you probably think of an injectable treatment for fine lines and wrinkles. This treatment, which uses a purified protein, botulinum toxin A, works to prevent muscle movement. It targets specific muscles that contract to cause the formation of lines. What most people aren’t aware of is that Botox can also be an effective treatment for bruxism-related TMJ disorder.
With a Botox injection, we can target the muscles that cause you to grind and clench your jaw. The treatment works to weaken these muscles and prevent them from contracting as forcefully. This then helps to alleviate the pressures that your jaw muscles exert on your teeth, your jaws, and your temporomandibular joints.
Alleviating TMJ Disorder With Orthodontics
Crooked teeth and jaws can cause both bruxism and severe TMJ issues. Orthodontic care can be an effective treatment for dealing with these alignment issues, helping to alleviate your pain while also improving your smile.
One of the most common orthodontic appliances is traditional metal braces. This treatment uses metal brackets and wires to straighten your teeth. The wires are attached to the brackets with elastic O-rings. Over time, braces put pressure on your teeth to loosen them and guide them into the proper positions. Metal braces can also be equipped with additional components, such as springs or rubber bands to help shift your jaws into proper alignment. Once your alignment has been corrected, TMJ issues are typically alleviated.
While metal braces are the traditional treatment for poor alignment, today there are a few other options. Clear braces use clear or ceramic brackets, providing you with a more discreet treatment. Lingual braces also use brackets and wires, but the brackets are affixed to the backs of your teeth rather than the front surfaces. Crooked teeth can also be corrected with clear aligners.
Surgical Treatments For TMJ Disorder
If you have tried all other treatments for TMJ disorder, and nothing has provided you with relief from severe symptoms, you may be recommended for surgery. There are a few different types of surgical procedures that may be performed to alleviate your discomfort and restore your quality of life. Surgical procedures for TMD include:
- Arthrocentesis—This is a minor surgical procedure. With this type of treatment, small needles are inserted into your joints to wash them out. Small tools may also be used to remove damaged tissue found in the joint or to dislodge the disc inside.
- Arthroscopy—An arthroscope is a tool that has a small light and camera on one end of it. After making small incisions, the arthroscope is inserted into the jaw so that we can examine it more closely. During this treatment, we can also eliminate inflammation in the joints or realign them if necessary.
- Open Jaw Surgery—This is the most invasive of the surgical options for your TMJ disorder. It may be recommended if bone structures have been worn down or there is scar tissue or bone fragments in the joint. During this procedure, your entire jaw is opened so that it can be examined properly and we can provide you with the appropriate treatment. Open jaw surgery is only recommended when less invasive procedures wouldn’t be reliably effective.
Find Relief for TMJ Disorders
TMJ disorder can make even the simplest movements of your mouth excruciatingly painful and incredibly difficult. By diagnosing the exact cause of your TMJ issues, we can provide you with the best possible treatment to restore function and greatly improve your quality of life. Call OHIOSmiles at (740) 439-2501 today for more information and to schedule your appointment.