Temporomandibular joint disorder, is also known as “TMJD” or “TMJ disorder.” It is a condition that is directly associated with the jaw joint, but can impact more than you might realize. Symptoms of the condition include everything from popping of the joint, headaches, and muscle pain that radiates through the neck, shoulders and back.
What causes TMJ disorder?
Typically the condition is linked with chronic wear, overuse, and atypical function of the joint. This can be caused by anything from bruxism (clenching and grinding) to misaligned teeth. If the teeth do not bite together properly, the joint must alter its natural movements to perform simple functions like biting and chewing. Or, if the joint is overused, the strain of muscles around it creates symptoms of joint disorder.
You may notice problems like:
- Side to side deviation as you open and close your mouth
- Headaches when you wake up in the morning
- Sharp muscle pain through the face, neck, or even the pack
- Pain, popping, clicking or locking of the TMJ when opening and closing
What can you do to help stop the pain and discomfort associated with TMJD?
The first step is to eliminate the cause of the disorder. If clenching and grinding are straining the joint, then wearing a bite splint can prevent the muscles from fully engaging. Dr. Alizadeh will create a custom fitted guard that stays snuggly in place while you sleep, work at the desk, or are on your way home from work. The slight space created by separating the upper and lower jaws allow the muscles surrounding the TMJ to relax. In other circumstances, muscle relaxers can provide temporary relief. Alternating a hot or cold compress against the area can also help.
Orthodontic therapy can also be considered an effective way to manage or treat TMJ disorder. This is, of course, if the condition is due to misaligned teeth. If the teeth do not meet together properly, the joint moves the jaw in directions that are not typically appropriate in order to making chewing effective. Correcting this problem allows the jaw to return to a natural pattern of use, reducing strain on the tissues surrounding the joint. Depending on the extent of tooth misalignment that is present, patients can choose from anything from clear Invisalign braces to more traditional types of orthodontics.
Unfortunately, there are still some people that suffer from severe pain and disorders of the joint that prevent them from completing everyday activities – such as talking, chewing, or biting. In this case it may be necessary to operate on the joint in order to enable it to function correctly. Severe damage to the internal structures may mean that surgery is the only option. Although most dentists do not have experience offering surgical therapy for TMJ disorders,Dr. Alizadeh does!