TMJ dysfunction (also known as TMJ disorder, TMJD, or TMD) is a common problem that many people face, causing them to seek TMJ treatment at their local dental clinic or doctor’s office. Despite the prevalence of TMJ disorder, there are no standard medications or remedies for this condition, which has led medical professionals to get creative in terms of neuromuscular dentistry treatments and therapies. At Trillium Dental in Ottawa, we offer bruxism and TMJ treatments involving the use of a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) unit that helps to realign the jaw into its correct position with a custom-made orthotic. Contact us today to learn more, or continue reading for some basic information about TMDs.
CAUSES OF TMJ DISORDER CAN BE DIFFICULT TO DETERMINE
Unlike other dental problems, such as gum disease, oral cancer, and tooth cavities, there are many possible causes of TMJ disorder, and some patients have a combination of two or more causes. These include:
- Traumatic facial injury — in some cases, patients with a TMD have suffered a facial injury that has affected their temporomandibular joint and/or the surrounding jawbone. This can cause the jawbone to be misaligned, leading to jaw pain and inhibited jaw movement.
- Teeth grinding — dental patients who perpetually clench or grind their teeth (known as bruxism) are at a heightened risk of developing a TMD, as this can interfere with the natural sliding hinge function of the jawbone. If you grind or clench your teeth, talk to your dentist about prevention methods, such as night guards for your teeth.
- Arthritis — arthritis affects the cartilage and joints in the body, and it is not particularly uncommon for patients with arthritis to also experience jaw pain or discomfort. Arthritis can damage the temporomandibular joint, causing TMJ problems, such as neck and facial pain, difficulty chewing, and more.
- Disc erosion/dislocation — since each temporomandibular joint fits to the jawbone’s socket and ball with a disc, erosion or dislocation of these discs can cause a TMD. A dental x-ray is required to determine whether or not this is the case, so be sure to consult your family dentist if you think you have an eroded or dislocated disc.
SYMPTOMS OF A TMD CAN OCCUR ON ONE OR BOTH SIDES OF THE FACE
The human jawbone has a temporomandibular joint on both sides, allowing you to open and close your mouth in a sliding hinge motion. Given the potential causes of TMJ disorders listed above, it is possible that you can experience symptoms of a TMD on one or both sides of the face. Here are the most common TMD symptoms that patients experience:
- Jaw pain — jaw pain is the most common symptom of TMJ disorder; however, it is important to note that jaw pain can be caused by a number of things, including earaches and sinus infections. If you are experiencing chronic jaw pain that lasts longer than a few weeks, see your local dentist about possible TMJ pain treatments.
- Facial soreness — many people with a TMD will also experience soreness in other areas of the face, including the temples, forehead muscles, and even the ears. This is another reason why it’s important to rule out other medical issues before pursuing TMJ treatment; you may simply have a sinus infection or other illness.
- Popping jaw — If the disks in either side of your jaw pop or click when you open and close your mouth, this could be a symptom of a TMD. Often, this causes pain, so be sure to check in with your family dentist if your jaw constantly makes a popping or clicking sound and this is accompanied by jaw pain or headaches.
- Noise when chewing — a grinding or crunching noise when you chew is another possible indication of a TMD. This is because the natural hinge movement of the disks is inhibited when the temporomandibular joint is injured or deteriorated, causing a grinding sound when it would otherwise be silent.
- Limited jaw movement — many people with a TMD experience trouble opening their mouths, whether that be due to lockjaw or just difficulty opening their mouth more than a few centimeters wide. It is not uncommon for patients with a TMJ disorder to also experience pain when they open and close their mouths, so check in with a doctor or dentist if this is the case.
- Headaches — headaches are another common sign of TMJ disorders, but as with jaw pain, headaches are caused by a number of things, like stress, illness, dehydration, medication, hangovers, etc. Visit your family dentist if you are experiencing headaches in addition to any of the other TMD symptoms listed above.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT VARIES BY MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Given that there is no streamlined process for diagnosing and treating TMJ disorder, each dentist and doctor will have a slightly different process for addressing TMDs. Some may simply take an x-ray and offer advice with regard to pain medications, while others might offer TMJ therapy options, known as neuromuscular dentistry techniques. Biofeedback techniques are sometimes used, as are other relaxation methods such as the TENS unit we use here at Trillium Dental.
When you visit our Ottawa dental clinic for TMJ pain, our dentists will take an x-ray to determine whether there is an issue with your temporomandibular joints. We will also feel your jaw and ask about the symptoms you have been experiencing, whether that be jaw pain, a popping jaw, or any other kind of facial soreness. If our dentists believe you would be a good candidate for our TMJ treatment, we will schedule a separate appointment where we can use the TENS unit to your ideal jaw alignment. This allows us to create a custom mouthpiece for you to wear as you retrain your jaw into its natural position, thus reducing or eliminating painful TMD symptoms.
SCHEDULE A TMJ TREATMENT IN OTTAWA
At Trillium Dental, we regularly treat patients with TMJ disorders by fixing uneven bites with custom orthodontics. Contact us today to learn more about our TMJ treatments, or visit us today in Alta Vista, Kanata, Orleans, Stittsville, Stittsville West, Downtown Ottawa, or the Bayshore and Westgate Malls. We look forward to helping you live without jaw pain!