Modern orthodontics can give you the smile you always wanted. However, did you know that it can also prevent damage to essential supporting structures in your oral cavity?
In addition to fixing crowded or crooked teeth, modern orthodontic treatment can also change how your teeth come together. A proper bite is an essential part of excellent TMJ health.
What is TMJ?
TMJ is an acronym for a joint in your jaw with a long name: temporomandibular joint. It is a hinge-like joint that connects your skull to your jaw. You can feel it working on both sides of your face, right below your ears when you open and close your mouth or move your jaw from side to side. When there is a problem with the joint, it is called TMD, which stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. However, TMJ and TMD are often used interchangeably regarding joint issues.
There are a few causes of TMD. Problems in the TMJ might start after an injury. However, TMD could result from intense pressure on the joint from clenching and grinding your teeth, a change of jaw position, or damage to or arthritis in the joint. As Web MD explains, stress also contributes to TMD by causing you to clench your teeth and put too much pressure on the TMJ.
The Symptoms of TMD
Many symptoms of TMD can cause you discomfort, whether temporarily or for long periods. It is more common in women than men and tends to affect patients in their 20s to their 40s.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Jaw tenderness or pain on one or both sides of your face
- An ache in or around your ear or facial area
- Discomfort during or difficulty chewing
- Lock up of the jaw joint, causing difficulty opening or closing your mouth
- A clicking sound or grating sensation when you chew or open your mouth
When Should I Get Help For TMD?
The Mayo Clinic suggests that TMD should be addressed when you have pain or tenderness in your jaw or have problems opening or closing your mouth fully. Orthodontists are one of the dental specialties that can address these problems in the jaw joint. When we do your initial consultation, we will be able to see what is going on with your TMJ and address any issues with our treatment plan. In addition, we can prescribe over-the-counter or prescription drugs to treat the symptoms of TMD that might be causing you discomfort.
We diagnose TMJ by observing the range of motion and feeling around the joints when you open and close your mouth and putting pressure on the areas of your face and jaw to determine areas where discomfort occurs. Also, the digital imaging we take will allow us to view the TMJ and any irregularities that might be there.
Depending on what we see there, we will devise a treatment plan. It might require wearing a splint or night guard to correct your bite and put the joint in the proper position. Another non-surgical treatment could be to restore the way your teeth come together with modern orthodontic treatments and appliances. For some adults, treatment might include referring you to a dental professional to replace missing teeth, get crowns, or a partial bridge first.
If your TMD is severe or caused by something other than bite problems, other treatment options might be necessary to correct the problem. We would refer you to a dentist who specializes in TMD treatment.
In addition, Healthline suggests reducing your stress to alleviate symptoms and jaw pain. Healthline recommends deep breathing exercises, yoga, or mediation to address the need for relaxation. Also, low-impact cardio can help, like dancing, swimming, or walking.
Your diet can help, too. Sticky, hard, and extra chewy foods can make your jaw hurt. Avoid things like steak, taffy, raw carrots, or nuts, and eat more soft foods. Mashed potatoes, soups, applesauce, and other easy-to-eat foods might help on days when you have jaw pain.
However, you must treat your condition once diagnosed. While some types of TMD might go away on their own, those caused by misalignments or other chronic diseases will only worsen. Cleveland Clinic points out that untreated TMD can lead to significant health problems, including chronic pain and inflammation. There could also be deteriorating bite issues, tooth erosion, and sleep and emotional health difficulties.
TMD is part of the oral cavity, and as orthodontists, we want to ensure that you have the best oral health possible. If you think you might have TMD, please call your dentist or let us know when you come for your consultation. Knowing there is a problem is the first step to getting the TMD treatment you need so you can proceed with the modern orthodontic treatment you want.
Frisbee, DMD E. Temporomandibular Disorders (TMJ & TMD). WebMD.com. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/temporomandibular-disorders-tmd. Published 2021. Accessed June 12, 2022.
TMJ disorders – Symptoms and causes. mayoclinic.org. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/symptoms-causes/syc-20350941. Accessed June 12, 2022.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention. my.clevelandclinic.org. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15066-temporomandibular-disorders-tmd-overview. Accessed June 12, 2022.
Darla B. TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) Disorders. Healthline.com. https://www.healthline.com/health/tmj-disorders. Published 2022. Accessed June 12, 2022.