You and Your Temporomandibular Joint
Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ for short) is the joint where your jawbone connects to your skull. When it is operating properly, you likely never even think about it; however, when your TMJ has problems, it can cause you a great deal of discomfort and can make your life challenging, to say the least.
What is the TMJ’s function?
A properly-functioning TMJ will allow your jaw to move up and down freely and will allow limited side-to-side movement as well. This movement facilitates your ability to chew and speak. When your TMJ is working properly, then your teeth should align perfectly when your mouth is closed.
What happens when the TMJ is not functioning properly?
If your TMJ has a problem you may notice a clicking or popping sound or feeling when you open your mouth wide. The absence of this symptom, however, does not mean that you do not have a TMJ issue. A misaligned TMJ can cause your teeth to close unevenly and lead to tooth damage. Other symptoms of a malfunctioning TMJ include, but are not limited to, headaches, pain in your teeth, pain in your jaw, and even infections centered in your ear or your sinuses.
When your TMJ is not operating properly the condition is known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD for short). Note that TMD can develop progressively, so it is possible you could have it even if you do not exhibit any of the above symptoms. For this reason, when you visit us for your dental cleaning an examination, we make it a point to always examine your TMJ to ensure that it is working properly.
What can I do if I have TMD?
If you have been diagnosed with TMD there are several treatment courses available to you. We will begin with the most conservative, least-invasive, treatment options available. Fortunately, TMD frequently responds to these initial therapies and only rarely requires more extreme measures.
In order to relieve pain or discomfort from TMD you may start by applying moist heat or cold packs to the affected area for around 10 minutes at a time. We can instruct you on some simple stretching exercises that you may do in order to try to relieve some of the discomfort. This treatment regimen should be repeated a few times each day.
Some patients find that their TMD is worsened by the fact that they clench or grind their jaw while they sleep. If this is your situation we may be able to assist you by recommending or prescribing specialize muscle relaxers to keep your jaw muscles loose while you are sleeping.
Many patients find that wearing a custom-crafted mouthguard while they sleep assists in correcting the misalignment of the TMJ. Over a period of time this can permanently resolve the issue without the need for more invasive procedures. We can create this mouth guard by using a sophisticated piece of equipment that will measure and record your jaw movements and determining the difference between how your jaw should move and how it actually is moving.
If the mouthguard does not adequately resolve the TMD issue we can engage in further treatment such as replacing any missing teeth, installing crowns to assist in matching your biting surfaces, or using bridges or specialized braces to ensure that your teeth fit together properly when your mouth is closed.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms described above, or if you had any other reason to think that you may suffer from TMD, please contact us today at (503) 350-1234 and let us examine you. We are here to help you maintain a beautiful and healthy smile!
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