According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, over 10 million Americans suffer from jaw pain associated with the temporomandibular joint. It affects not only the jaw but also the ears and neck, often causing migraines and body aches and pains. For most, the pain cycles in and out of severity, and many suffer for years before deciding even to look into what is causing it.
What is TMJ
TMJ actually stands for the temporomandibular joint. This joint connects your jaw to the bones in your skull, the temporal bones.
What is TMD
If TMJ is the joint, TMD refers to the disorders that affect this joint, aptly called TMD (temporomandibular joint disorders). The joints affected by TMD can be felt by placing your fingertips on your face in front of your ears and opening your mouth. When you do this, you can feel the joint moving as you open and close your mouth. The muscles surrounding this joint are responsible for controlling how it moves, and you can thank them for your ability to talk to a friend, chew your favorite food and even yawn when you are trying to survive that mid-day slump without a nap.
Symptoms of TMD
Dr. Ken Collins, DDS, member of the Spokane Makeover Team and top area dentist several years in a row, describes the symptoms of TMD:
“When a patient’s bite is out of whack, a plethora of problems can ensue. One of the most commonly known issues is a TMJ related disorder. This can lead to headaches, neck, jaw and shoulder pain. Some don’t realize it can even lead to dizziness and ringing in the ears. But this misalignment of the jaw, also called occlusion, can lead to the wearing down of teeth, which exposes nerves and can be incredibly painful. When the bite doesn’t come together properly, and teeth begin to wear, chewing your food or even just talking can lead to agony.”
Other symptoms can include popping/clicking when opening and closing the mouth, grinding of the teeth, clenching of the jaw and ringing in the ears.
Causes of TMD
The research is still out on the entire list of causes, but some have been identified. These include:
This type of TMD can range drastically in severity. Car accidents, trauma to the head and sports injuries are the leading external causes. Surprisingly, clenching and grinding of the teeth are one of the main causes of acute/trauma related TMD.
This is the most severe type. Changes to the jaw and shifting of the teeth alter the alignment of the teeth and the jaw. Extreme pain when chewing, biting or any similar motion is usually hard to miss when someone is experiencing this kind of TMD.
How It Is Treated
Treatment for TMD varies widely according to the dental philosophy of the provider.
Conservative treatments usually begin with stabilization splints, also known as bite guards. These may relieve pain but do not treat the disorder
Irreversible treatments include surgery such as breaking and realigning the jaw and surgically replacing the jaw joints with artificial implants.
Thanks to dentists specializing in a method called Neuromuscular Dentistry many treatments actually perfect the look of a patient’s smile while treating the cause of the pain.
In Coronoplasty, the teeth are contoured and reshaped to help the top and bottom jaws align straighter. Dental crowns and porcelain veneers can also be used to help change the bite with the side effects including a beautiful, new smile.
Many are shocked to find out Botox injections are actually a widely used treatment for TMD. Dr. Collins tells us why,
“Tension in your face muscles pull on your jaw and fatigue your jaw joint. TMD also creates tension in your face, neck, and shoulders. This creates other uncomfortable or disruptive symptoms. The FDA-approved botulinum toxin serum targets and relaxes these muscles to alleviate symptoms such as jaw pain and mobility, headaches, neck and shoulder tensions, tingling extremities, and tinnitus (phantom buzzing in your inner ear). “
The treatments for TMD have evolved drastically since the discovery of this disorder. Thanks to modern technology, you can now solve a painful problem while also getting the smile of your dreams. Sounds like a win-win.
Or office in Spokane is located at:
3151 E. 28th Ave.
Spokane, WA 99223
Office phone # 509-368-7788