General dentistry encompasses many facets including TMJ care. The joint located on either side of the head in front of your ears is called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint connects the jawbone to your skull and works in conjunction with the surrounding muscles and ligaments allowing you to chew, yawn, swallow and speak. The TMJ can move forward, rotate, and shift from side to side but when the muscle, bone or tissues in the area have issues it can affect the TMJ, causing TMD.
What is TMD?
TMD stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. This joint is crucial to how your mouth works because it uses sliding motions with a hinge action when moving. The bones that work in tandem with the joint are separated by a small disc that absorbs shock. These bones are covered in cartilage to protect them. However, when the disc erodes from overuse (especially from teeth grinding) or shifts out of its proper alignment, TMD is possible. In addition, arthritis or a blow to the area can damage the cartilage, causing TMD.
What are the symptoms of TMD?
TMD possesses many symptoms, some of which can be quite painful.
- A clicking or popping sound when you open your mouth or chew
- A grating sensation when you open your mouth or chew
- Problems when opening and closing your mouth
- Tenderness and pain around the jaw joint, ear, face and temples
- Neck pain
General dentistry and TMD
Your dentist will take X-rays and determine the best plan to treat your TMD. There are oral dental appliances available called occlusal splints (night guards) that fit over the biting surfaces of the teeth and over one jaw. This allows you to bite against the splint rather than your teeth while you sleep and reduce teeth grinding and irregular jaw movements.
Your dentist may also suggest certain relaxation techniques and can refer you to a physiotherapist to help deal with the muscle pain and tenderness associated with TMD. Over-the-counter pain medication may also be used for your treatment. Do not take anything that your dentist has not cleared.
If left untreated, TMD can cause long-term injury to the jaw. Moreover, the connective tissue in the area will be more susceptible to disease. Please contact our general dentistry clinic for more information about TMD treatments. We can help!