TMJ Therapy An Overview
Are you suffering from headaches, facial pain, or jaw pain? Are your teeth sensitive, worn, and rough along the edges, or has there been a change in your bite or the fit of your dentures? Do your ears feel full, ring, or do you hear a popping or clicking sound when chewing or speaking? Do you frequently wake with a headache or experience recurring headaches? Answering yes to these questions may indicate that you are suffering from TMD and have a TMJ disorder.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, commonly called a TMJ disorder or TMD, often starts with an Occlusal Imbalance. The pain may come on slowly or suddenly after an accident or trauma. Atlanta dentist Dr. Brenda Paulen has received extensive training in assessing, detecting, and correcting occlusal issues, sometimes called “occlusal disease”.
In dentistry, the term “occlusion” refers to the bite relationship. More specifically, this means the jaw’s alignment as the teeth come together along with the relationship of the upper and lower teeth. The lower jaw is a “u-shaped” bone with two jaw joints at each end.
When the bite relationship aligns and functions properly, the lower jaw can freely hinge at the joints and close together with the lower teeth. The lower jaw contacts the upper teeth evenly around the arch without the facial muscles overworking or compensating. This creates a “stable bite” in harmony with the joints and muscles.
When there is a misalignment in the bite relationship to the fully seated joints, then problems can develop.
TMJ Therapy What to Expect
TMD Signs and Symptoms
Understanding the signs and symptoms of TMD can help you find the appropriate treatment. There is always a dental component to TMJ pain. Alleviating painful symptoms can significantly improve your daily life. If you experience these symptoms, contact Proud Smiles for a comprehensive TMJ Treatment analysis. Signs and symptoms of a TMJ disorder include:
- Frequent headaches
- Clenching and teeth grinding
- Disturbed sleep
- Broken restorations
- Excessively worn teeth
- Sore jaw and facial muscles
- Stress on the jaw
- Head and/or neck pain
- Clicking or popping when opening or chewing
- Limited movement of the jaw, episodes of “getting stuck”
- Shifting teeth, bite changes
Through a unique and gentle examination, Dr. Paulen will assess the mechanics of your bite and recommend various treatment options to relieve whatever stresses are found.
Improper bite alignment and clenching or grinding habits trigger recurring pain episodes. Splint therapy is a general starting point, followed by a detailed evaluation of a patient’s occlusion to determine the source of the problem.
Causes of TMJ
Many different things can contribute to TMJ. Often, symptoms may be due to multiple different factors.
One of the common causes is malocclusion. When teeth don’t come together properly, it causes an uneven bite and puts strain on the jaw joint. The joint can deteriorate, muscles strain and tense, and the area inflamed. Other anatomical issues include damaged cartilage, deformations, and your jaw being misaligned.
Environmental and Lifestyle Factors
Trauma or injury to the jaw impacts how it tracks and comes together. It can also lead to jaw and teeth misalignment. The same is true of that repetitive motions and bad habits. Grinding and clenching your teeth or chewing gum excessively breaks down the jaw joint. There’s strain on the muscles and joints that contribute to these motions. The longer these habits continue, the more the jaw joint breaks down.
Habits like biting your nails or chewing on ice put extra strain on the jaw joint. Your diet impacts it, too. If you’re eating many chewy and tough foods, it’s harder to break them down. It stresses out your jaw joint. Even your posture can exacerbate TMJ. If your posture is poor, it impacts your neck, shoulders, back, and jaw muscles.
Stress, anxiety, and emotional tension all translate into physical symptoms. They increase the overall muscle tension throughout your body. Chronic stress or emotional trauma cause you to subconsciously clench and grind your teeth, causing extra tension on the jaw joint. With extra tension and muscle spasms, more and more pressure impacts your TMJ.
Other Medical Factors
Even hormonal changes can trigger TMJ issues. Hormone fluctuations during a woman’s pregnancy or menstrual cycle can increase tension and inflammation around the jaw joint. Multiple other medical conditions are associated with TMJ. These include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
Treating TMJ and Relieving Painful Symptoms
TMJ-related issues are multifactorial. We may recommend combining treatments to bring harmony and balance to the bite, TMJ joint, and facial muscles. Effective treatment may be as simple as getting an “occlusal adjustment,” a restorative procedure to slightly recontour one or more teeth to adjust the balance of the bite.
First, Dr. Paulen will review your overall health history and dental history. Second, she will discuss your symptoms and help you discover other hidden issues. Then, she will recommend treatments based on your unique TMD evaluation. If you have severe TMD problems, we will coordinate care with an ENT, physical therapist, neurologist, or endocrinologist.
In many cases, Dr. Paulen may recommend using a muscle deprogrammer or centric relation splint. We specially fabricate this removable dental device to wear at your leisure. It will help you relax your jaw and relieve nerve and muscle pain, avoiding headaches. Dr. Paulen even wears one herself!
In more severe cases, we may involve full mouth rehabilitation. This process incorporates orthodontic treatment to correct malocclusion and dental restorations for worn, damaged, or missing teeth. The goal of this treatment is to not only relieve symptoms that can affect daily life but to restore comfort, balance, and longevity to the bite and dental health.
If you are suffering from TMJ issues, visit our dental office in Sandy Springs for evaluation and treatment options. Request an appointment online or call us at (470) 239-6422 today.