Patients who grind their teeth can sometimes develop a serious problem with their jaw, which left untreated, can adversely affect the teeth, gums and bone structures of the mouth.
One of the most common jaw disorders is related to a problem with the temporomandibular joint which is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. The TM joint allows your upper and lower jaw to open and close and facilitates chewing and speaking.
The most common symptoms of occlusal (bite) problems are headaches, muscle tenderness around the jaw, or ear pain. People with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD) can also have a clicking or popping sound when opening and closing their mouth. These people also sometimes experience tooth sensitivity.
Bite problems can cause teeth to become mobile and wear prematurely. A malocclusion can also cause teeth to crack.
Some treatments for TMJD include muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medications, or wearing a nightguard/occlusal guard in the mouth during sleep.
More serious conditions involve improperly aligned joints or dislocated jaws. More advanced cases of TMJD involve wearing a full time wear bite splint to establish a comfortable physiologic bite. Once the patient is comfortable in an occlusal splint, definitive bite therapy can be initiated. Examples of bite therapy would be equilibration (occlusal adjustment), tooth reshaping, orthodontics or restorative care such as fillings and crowns. The most extreme form of TMJD involves an arthritic condition of the jaw joint. Traumatic injuries also can cause jaw dislocation. In a few rare cases, jaw surgery may be required to correct severe TMJD problems.
Some of our TMJD patients are aided in treatment with the addition of physical therapy.
Signs you may have TMJ Disorder
Jaw pain and discomfort is nothing to ignore. In fact, it’s estimated that about 10 million Americans are dealing with TMJ disorder.
Symptoms can range anywhere from being a minor nuisance to severe and almost debilitating. You may only experience pain on one side of your face or on both. The most common symptoms include:
- Jaw pain and stiffness
- Difficulty opening your mouth wide
- A clicking or popping sound when opening your mouth or chewing
- An achy or tired jaw
- An uncomfortable bite or problems chewing
Less common symptoms include:
- Ringing in the ears
If you are experiencing any of these issues then it might be time to schedule a visit with Steadman Family Dentistry. Dr. Robert Steadman has been effectively treating patients for TMJD for over 30 years. Properly diagnosing your condition is extremely important in creating a treatment plan that manages your symptoms.
Treating TMJ Disorder
The first treatment options tend to be more conservative in nature and include remedies such as:
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications like naproxen or ibuprofen to help combat inflammation and pain
- Using ice packs on the affected side for about 10 minutes at a time. When using an ice pack, first wrap the pack in a towel so that ice is never applied directly on the skin.
- Eating softer foods like yogurt, potatoes, cooked vegetables, grains and eggs. Try cutting food into bite-size pieces and stay away from chewy or crunchy foods, which can aggravate your condition.
- Avoid any actions that force your jaw to open extremely wide, such as chewing gum or yelling.
- Adopt relaxation techniques to help loosen your jaw muscles and reduce tension.
Also, talk to us about other TMJ treatments:
- Medications like anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants or muscle relaxants to treat more severe pain and discomfort
- A night guard or splint that covers your teeth, relaxes the muscles, and lessens the pressure placed on your jaws when clinching or grinding
- Restorations such as dental crowns, bridges, implants, etc. that correct bite issues and replace missing teeth
Jaw pain doesn’t need to take over your life. If you think you are dealing with TMJ disorder then it’s time to see us for treatment. Call Steadman Family Dentistry today to schedule an appointment.