Your mouth performs many essential functions every day. Whether you are aware of them or not, your mouth is made up of several components, all of which work together to enable you to eat, speak, smile, and express other emotions. When all of the components are healthy, they can function seamlessly and without issue. However, when something occurs, such as facial trauma, the affected components can become irritated and inflamed. This can cause a significant amount of pain and affect how well your mouth works. One of these essential components of your mouth is your temporomandibular joints. When these joints are irritated, they can make it almost impossible to eat and speak. OHIOSmiles is here to help.
What Is Your TMJ?
The TMJ is your temporomandibular joints. You have two of these joints in your mouth, one located on each side of your face. These joints are located where your lower jaw, called your mandible, meets up with your skull. They are ball and socket joints with a disc in the center. The disc functions to absorb the impact that your jaw places on these joints.
Your TMJ play a crucial role in the functioning of your mouth. These joints, in addition to the attached muscles, bones, and ligaments, are responsible for the movement of your mouth. With these joints, you can open your mouth, close it, and move your mandible from side to side. The joints allow you to bite, chew, speak, and so much more.
What Issues Can Affect The Health Of My TMJ?
TMJ disorder is a term that refers to any one of many different issues that can affect the health and functioning of your TMJ and the functions of your mouth. These issues can also affect the functioning of the bones, muscles, and ligaments that are attached to your TMJ. When these components are injured, irritated, or inflamed, the way your mouth can function is significantly affected. 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 can occur at any time of day, it occurs more frequently while you sleep. This is because, during the daytime, you are often aware of when you are grinding and clenching, which allows you 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. It can occur for many different reasons, such as stress, tobacco products, stimulants, and poor tooth alignment. Your jaw and TMJ experience excessive pressure, which can tire the jaw and irritate the joints, leading to significant discomfort.
- Facial trauma. Injuries to your face and mouth can be caused by several issues, such as a car accident, a sports-related accident, or even a simple fall. These issues can cause significant harm to your jaw and your TMJ.
- Jaw dislocation. Dislocation of your jaw occurs at the TMJ. Even temporary dislocation, such as whiplash, can cause tears in the joints that can become inflamed.
- 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 temporomandibular joints.
What Are The Symptoms Of TMJ Disorder?
Because TMJ disorder has many different causes, the types of symptoms you experience can vary. Additionally, most symptoms of TMJ disorder do not occur all at once. Instead, they often come on gradually. You may experience minor discomfort at first. It may be tolerable, even barely noticeable. However, the longer your TMJ disorder goes untreated, the worse your symptoms become. Symptoms that can indicate TMJ disorder include:
- Pain in your joints.
- Pain in your jaw and your face.
- Trouble biting and chewing. You may soon find that you are having difficulties eating many of your favorite foods.
- Trouble speaking properly.
- Experiencing 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 are unable to move your jaw until the joint loosens up. This can interfere in many of your daily activities.
- Chronic headaches or earaches. Pain in your TMJ can radiate to nearby structures, including up into your head or your ears. The problem, however, is that headaches and earaches are often mistaken for other issues, and therefore can lead to TMJ being misdiagnosed.
How Is TMJ Disorder Diagnosed?
With multiple causes, pinpointing the exact cause of your pain can be difficult on your own. If you are experiencing pain in your jaw and TMJ and other symptoms of TMJ disorder, it is essential that you schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
When you come in to the office, we listen to your symptoms. We then perform a thorough oral examination of your mouth. We look over your teeth, assessing wear patterns, looking them over for damage, and evaluating alignment. We also look over your jaw, looking for alignment issues. Next, we take images in your mouth, which may include digital x-rays and 3D CT scans. With these images, we can see the hidden structures of your mouth, including the roots of your teeth, the jawbone, muscles, ligaments, and the TMJ. These images provide us with a complete picture of your mouth. This allows us to determine the exact cause of your TMJ disorder as well as its severity, which then 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 seek relief with home remedies. There are a few different remedies that can provide relief for 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 to deal with TMJ disorder that is caused by stress. There are a few different ways that you can deal with stress. These tactics include meditation, deep breathing, calming music, and yoga. For many, stress can be alleviated simply by doing a hobby they enjoy 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 are those that require you to open your mouth wide, and those that are hard, crunchy, chewy, and sticky. Trying to eat these foods when your jaw is already irritated and inflamed will only 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 this 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 this device is to keep your jaw in proper alignment, preventing your mandible from sliding backward, which can then lead to grinding and clenching.
You can find oral appliances for sale at your local pharmacy. However, these appliances are not recommended. While marketed as affordable devices, there is no guarantee that the one you purchase will fit your mouth properly. An ill-fitting oral appliance can cause more problems than it solves. It can fall out of your mouth while you sleep, which means that you get no relief. Some oral appliances may stay in your mouth but can interfere with breathing while you sleep.
We recommend a professionally made oral appliance. We custom create an oral appliance for you based on impressions of your mouth. Not only does this ensure a proper fit in your mouth, which means that it will stay in place and not cause breathing complications, but we are also able to take your bite into consideration. This allows your oral appliance to provide you with optimal results. In addition to ensuring a proper fit, your oral appliance is made from high-quality materials, which allows it to last for a long time.
When you hear the word Botox, you probably think of an injectable treatment used to treat 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 do not know 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 your grinding and clenching issues. The treatment works to weaken these muscles. As a result, they are unable to contract as strongly, which helps to prevent grinding and clenching. 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. Orthodontics is an effective treatment for dealing with these alignment issues, which can help 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. They perform the work of moving your teeth, placing pressure on them to loosen them and then 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 alignment has been corrected, your 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, except that 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 any relief, or your TMJ disorder is severe, you may be recommended for surgery. There are a few different types of surgical procedures that may be performed to help alleviate your discomfort and restore your quality of life. Surgical procedures for TMJ disorder 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 needs to be opened so that it can be examined properly, and we can provide you with the appropriate treatment. Open jaw surgery is only recommended if necessary.
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 the functions of your mouth and greatly improve your quality of life. Call OHIOSmiles at (740) 439-2501 today for more information and to schedule your appointment.