Dental Care for the Whole Family

TMJ disorder or dysfunction

What is TMJ disorder or dysfunction?

TMJ is an acronym that stands for “temporomandibular joint.” These two joints attach your jaw to the rest of the skull. TMJ disorder or dysfunction (TMD or TMJD) is a term used to describe the symptoms that arise when the jaws, teeth, and muscles surrounding the TMJ fail to work in harmony, often due to the jaw joints being out of place.

What Does the Temporomandibular Joint Do?

As the point of fixation between the jaw and the side of the head, the temporomandibular joints allow you to move your jaw as well as open and close your mouth. These structures play a critical role in the ability to chew, yawn, and speak with ease. When functioning properly, the TMJ should enable seamless motion of the jaw without pain, tension, or resistance. However, when the jaw joint or any of the surrounding soft tissues become inflamed, stressed, misaligned, or knocked out of the proper positioning, opening and closing the mouth can be difficult, uncomfortable, or painful. Symptoms can be localized to the area surrounding the TMJ, or begin to affect other areas of the body.

What are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?

People with TMJ disorder or dysfunction often suffer from a number of different symptoms that can adversely affect their lifestyle. If any of the following symptoms are causing distress in your day-to-day life, please contact our practice to discuss your concerns or to schedule a consultation.

  • Clicking or popping jaw joint/li>
  • Pain in or around the jaw joints
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Limited opening of the mouth
  • Problems or discomfort when eating or chewing

Common TMD symptoms that may be less obvious include:

  • Headaches
  • Pain in the neck and shoulders
  • Earaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness
  • Toothaches

These indications are usually caused by muscle spasms that take place when the muscles connected to the jaw bones and joints are stressed or strained by an unstable bite.

Why Does TMJ Disorder Affect Other Areas of the Body?

The TMJ is involved in a complex system of muscles, nerves, tendons, cartilage, discs, and blood vessels—all of which work together to enable biting function. When there is dysfunction within the jaw joint and its interconnected mechanisms, or if you have a poor bite, this delicate system can be disrupted. In accommodating this physiological imbalance, the nerves and muscles of the face are often forced to behave irregularly, causing tension, pain, and other symptoms to spread to the head, back, neck, and shoulders.

What are Possible Causes of TMJ Disorder?

TMJ disorder or dysfunction may be aggravated by an unstable or misaligned bite (teeth that are not properly positioned on the jaw bone), incidents involving a blow to the mouth or head, whiplash injury, or a combination of several of these factors. The jaw joint is a ball and socket joint that, when functioning properly, is cushioned and separated by a thin disc of cartilage. An unstable bite or malocclusion can pull the joint out of alignment. Mild displacement typically causes a clicking or popping sound, while more severe displacement can be very painful. Untreated TMJ dysfunction may worsen and become more debilitating. When treatment is pursued in the early stages, the prognosis for a return to normal function is generally positive.

Will TMJ Disorder Resolve On Its Own?

While there are simple steps that can be taken to alleviate TMJ pain temporarily, TMD will not go away on its own without addressing the sources of inflammation, injury, or stress to the jaw joint that is causing your symptoms. In fact, as tension on the temporomandibular joints continues over time, the condition may exacerbate. Timely treatment is pivotal to restoring proper function of your oral structures and preventing any long-term damage to the TMJ. Fortunately, there are a number of non-invasive solutions that can be utilized to identify the underlying cause of your TMJ disorder, treat the dysfunction, and minimize your symptoms. After evaluating your concerns in a consultation, Dr. Schultz can develop a customized treatment plan and determine the most appropriate course of action for your unique needs.

What TMJ Treatments Will Dr. Schultz Utilize?

Treating TMJ can include a number of different stages involving the jaw joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and teeth. The first step of treatment involves physical therapy and specific exercises, which are performed to alleviate pain and muscle spasms. Our experienced dentist, Dr. Jeffrey Schultz, may then have a provisional apparatus, sometimes known as an orthotic or splint, fabricated. The patient will wear the device over their teeth until their bite is stabilized. Dr. Schultz is always sure to concentrate on minimizing the visibility of the appliance so that it appears as discreetly as possible.

Other treatments to permanently correct TMJ disorder or dysfunction may include:

In serious cases, when the jaw itself is damaged, surgical treatment may be necessary. Oral surgery is uncommon and should only be considered as a last resort of treatment.

How Do I Stop Grinding My Teeth During Sleep?

Many people grind their teeth while they sleep; this is called nocturnal bruxism. While nighttime grinding can be related to TMJ disorder or dysfunction, it is just as likely to be caused by stress. Besides disrupting sleep, night grinding can damage your teeth and jaws. If you wake up in the morning with a sore jaw or your spouse notices the noise, please mention this to Dr. Schultz. A simple night guard may be able to solve your problem.

If you have any questions about TMJ disorder, our team would be happy to help you with your concerns. Please contact our practice today if you have any questions, or if you would like to schedule a consultation.

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