TMJ disorders include different conditions that are related to the Temporomandibular Joint, which is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. If you place your fingers directly in front of your ears and open your mouth, you will be able to feel this joint. The TMJ is very important as it helps with chewing, swallowing and speaking.
TMJ disorders can affect many people of any age but are more common in people who have other dental problems, such as a bad bite, joint problems like arthritis, muscle problems or a history of trauma to the jaw or face. There are times when it is not clear what causes TMJ disorders, however, clenching of the jaw or teeth grinding can increase the chance of a problem developing. Most people clench or grind their teeth at night time when they sleep or when they are stressed, therefore, most of the time they don’t even realise they are doing it.
There are a few symptoms that can indicate a problem with the Temporomandibular Joint. The most common ones being:
• Pain around the teeth or in the facial muscles, jaw joints, near the ears or sometimes in the neck and shoulders
• Jaw pain when talking, eating or yawning
• Popping or clicking sounds when opening or closing the mouth
• Headaches or earaches without another cause
For some disorders of TMJ, the treatment can be quite simple. For example, resting the jaw for a few days whenever it becomes tender and having a soft diet avoiding hard or chewy foods that may cause pressure on the jaw muscles.
As mentioned before most TMJ disorders are commonly brought on due to stress & anxiety and causes people to clench or grind their teeth. It is important that you are able to recognise these habits early and learn to control them early on. Try to notice the stress-related behaviours so they can be consciously stopped as soon as they start to happen. Exercising regularly can also help prevent stress overload.
When pain persists after trying the above methods, it may be recommended that a bite guard is made for your mouth. A bite guard is a custom made guard worn at night time or during periods of stress, to prevent clenching and grinding.
Speak to your dentist for more advice on bite guards and how they can help with TMJ disorders.
Ian, the Mosman dentist. Dentist Mosman.