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. The temporomandibular joints are the two joints that attach your jaw to your skull. TMJ disorder or dysfunction (TMD or TMJD) is a term used to describe the group of symptoms that result when the jaws, teeth, and muscles in the area fail to work in harmony because the jaw joints are out of place.

What are the symptoms of TMJ disorder or dysfunction?

People with TMJ disorder or dysfunction often suffer from a number of different symptoms which can adversely affect their lifestyle. If any of the following symptoms are causing distress in your day to day life please feel free to contact us with any questions

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

Less obviously associated symptoms may 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.

What are some possible causes of TMJ disorder or dysfunction?

TMJ disorder or dysfunction may be aggravated by an unstable or misaligned bite (teeth that are not positioned properly 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 which, 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 causes a clicking or popping sound; more severe displacement can be very painful. Untreated TMJ dysfunction may worsen. The prognosis for return to normal function with treatment in the early stages is good.

What treatments will Dr. Schultz use?

Treating TMJ can involve a number of different stages because the jaw joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and teeth. The first step in treatment involves physical therapy and specific exercises, which are done to alleviate the 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 is as discreet as possible.

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

In serious cases, when the jaw itself is damaged, it may require surgical treatment. Oral surgery is not common and should only be considered as a last resort of treatment.

What about teeth grinding 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 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 could solve your problem.

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