The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located between the upper and lower jaw. Though small in size, this joint is responsible for connecting the jaw to the skull, allowing for a full range of jaw motion. TMJ Disorder (also called TMD) occurs when the temporomandibular joint experiences problems that negatively impact its ability to function properly. A malfunctioning TMJ can lead to a number of symptoms, including headaches, jaw pain, and a clicking or popping sound when opening and closing the mouth.
TMD is a common condition for patients of all ages. Here at Cumberland Dental Specialists, we strive to offer our patients compassionate, high-quality care. We understand how distressing the symptoms of TMD can be—especially for our pediatric patients—and we strive to ensure that everyone has a comfortable and satisfactory visit. If you believe that you or your child are experiencing TMD, please contact us today. Our experienced team is happy to answer any questions you may have about TMD symptoms, treatment options, and more.
- TMJ Disorder
- TMJ Disorder Causes
- TMJ Disorder Symptoms
- TMJ Disorder Prevention
- TMJ Disorder Treatments
What Is TMJ Disorder?
TMJ Disorder occurs when there is a problem with the temporomandibular joint. The TMJ system is made up of the temporomandibular joint itself as well as the connective tissues, nerves, cartilage, and muscles around it. Damage, inflammation, misalignment, or overuse can adversely affect any part of this system and place added stress on the temporomandibular joint, often resulting in TMD. Sometimes, TMD can also affect the surrounding muscles that help open and close the upper and lower jaw. The causes and specific impacts of these problems can vary from person to person, so it is important to consult a dentist who offers TMJ therapies when deciding on a treatment plan.
TMJ Disorder Causes
The temporomandibular joint is part of a complex system of interlocking cartilage, bone, muscle, and soft tissue, meaning that problems with the TMJ can arise from a number of sources. Some of the most common causes include:
- Jaw misalignment
- Arthritis or other degenerative jaw conditions
- Teeth clenching or grinding
- Imbalanced facial muscles
- Persistent stress
- Trauma to the jaw, head, or neck
- General overuse of the jaw joint
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
TMJ Disorder symptoms can manifest in a variety of ways, with differing degrees of severity. Additionally, several of the common symptoms are not localized to the jaw, resulting in many people being unaware that they are experiencing TMD. Symptoms of the condition can include:
- Popping or clicking of the jaw
- Pain or difficulty when opening and/or closing the mouth
- Headaches and dizziness
- Ear aches and/or tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Facial pain and/or muscle spasms
- Back, shoulder, and neck pain
- Numbness in the arms and/or fingers
- Pain or difficulty chewing, swallowing, and/or biting
If you or are your child are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important that you are evaluated for TMJ Disorder. Left untreated, TMD can lead to long-term issues, including joint deterioration, tooth damage, and increased pain levels.
Early Prevention of TMJ Disorder for Children and Adults
Certain lifestyle choices and preventative measures can reduce the long-term risks of developing TMJ Disorder. Recommendations can include:
- Avoiding difficult to chew foods, such as stringy meats, sticky candies, and gum
- Maintaining a proper posture
- Practicing meditation or other relaxation techniques to avoid stress
- Using a mouthguard or other protective device while playing sports or exercising
- Wearing a customized nightguard while sleeping
Here at Cumberland Dental Specialists, we offer several potential treatments for TMJ Disorder. During your initial appointment, your dentist will examine your mouth and jaw, and a treatment plan will be developed based on your symptoms and the likely cause(s) of your TMD. Some of the more common treatments for TMJ Disorder include:
Occlusion refers to the way that your teeth fit together when your jaw is closed. Sometimes, your occlusion can develop imbalances, leading to added jaw stress and teeth grinding. An occlusal splint is a custom mouthguard designed to slightly reposition the angle of the jaw in order to alleviate minor misalignment. This can reduce the stress on your temporomandibular joint and the surrounding muscles, which can be an effective treatment for the existing symptoms of TMD while also preventing future flare-ups.
Nightguard/Customized Oral Appliance
A nightguard is a dental device that is worn while you sleep. Nightguards are primarily designed to prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching, both of which can contribute to the development of TMJ Disorder. After a thorough evaluation of your mouth, we can create a customized nightguard that is uniquely fitted to you. This will help ensure both the comfort and long-term effectiveness of the treatment, as generic nightguards may pose a risk of resulting in misalignment, especially in children.
If you or your child are experiencing any of the symptoms of TMJ Disorder, please contact us at Cumberland Dental Specialists. Our friendly and experienced staff are happy to schedule an appointment with you and/or answer any questions you may have.