Problems with your jaw and the muscles in your head, face and neck that control it are known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD). These disorders are commonly referred to as “TMJ” but are more appropriately termed as “TMD” because it refers to a number of different issues that can cause problems with your temporomandibular joint.
TMJ actually refers to the jaw joint itself which is the “hinge” that connects your lower jaw to the temporal bone of your skull and is located directly in front of each ear. The joint allows you to open and close your jaw and move it side to side so you can talk, chew and yawn. TMD can involve any combination of three areas:
Disorders of the TMJ can be temporary or can last for many years and may involve one or both sides of the face. More women than men tend to develop TMD and it can occur as early as teenage years or much later in elderly individuals.
TMD commonly occurs as a result of microtrauma from the effects of clenching and grinding the teeth, or macrotrauma, which is an injury to the head, jaw or neck due to an accident, a fall, or whiplash. However, many other factors can contribute to TMD and can include missing, drifting, and malalignment of the teeth, an uneven bite, poor posture, stress, and hormonal imbalances.
Studies link a high prevalence of TMD in patients with “untreated” sleep apnea due to their chronic, subconscious clenching with the lower jaw in a more forward position in attempt to breathe as the airway closes. As this happens repeatedly night after night the cumulative effect over time can cause signs and symptoms of TMD.
Symptoms of TMJ can occur on one or both sides of your face. They can be temporary or can last for months or even years. Some men and women experience only mild symptoms, while others find their symptoms to be unbearable.
Common signs and symptoms of TMD may include:
Don’t ignore changes or discomfort in your jaw. These are joints that play essential roles in daily life and TMJ can disrupt normal routines of talking and chewing.
To successfully manage TMJ and Craniofacial Pain disorders, identifying the source and contributing factors of the symptoms require a thorough patient and medical history, clinical examination, and radiographic or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine uses a state-of-the-art oral scanner to collect digital imaging of your teeth and bite, and X-ray imaging to visualize the bones of your temporomandibular joints. An in-depth discussion of your symptoms, general health history, and lifestyle habits follows.
This information helps your specialist craft a customized treatment plan. In some cases, modifying behaviors can yield impressive improvements. Finding ways to manage stress, changing your diet, incorporating jaw stretches, or even changing the way you hold your phone can all help.
Conservative and methodic treatment is usually the best and most recommended strategy. In the majority of cases, this approach significantly resolves symptoms and can improve anatomic conditions that restore function without pain.
Dental orthotic appliances which are designed to treat different disorders related to the jaw (TMJ) and/or facial muscles are most effective when they are custom-fabricated. The orthotic appliance can be used to relax fatigued jaw muscles or those in spasm, realign misalignment between the upper and lower jaws, reposition TMJoint discs that are dislocated, or improve the posture of the head with the neck and shoulders.
Other innovative treatment options at PDSM include:
In cases where posture is contributing to the problem, your specialist at Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine can collaborate with a physical therapist or chiropractor to provide relief.
Learn more about treatment options for TMJ/TMD during your one-on-one consultation. You can schedule at the McMurray office in moments online or over the phone.