With the everyday stresses we all experience, it is common for patients to clench or grind their teeth at night. This can cause excessive pressure and forces on the teeth that may result in pulpitis (inflammation of the nerve within the teeth), bone loss, and fracturing of the teeth. Excess clenching force also impacts the temporomandibular joint and the attached muscles and ligaments which can cause jaw pain, muscle tenderness or spasm, lockjaw, and trismus (inability to open the mouth). Sometimes patients may not be experiencing any symptoms at all, but tooth wear may suggest that grinding or clenching is taking place.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ or TMD) is a chronic condition that can result in pain in the muscles and joints of the jaw. It can cause trouble chewing and swallowing, and sometimes it can even affect your ability to speak and cause chronic headaches. With so many symptoms, it’s no wonder that TMD is something you should take seriously.
Common Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
If you’ve noticed that your jaw locks or you’re constantly grinding your teeth, you may be suffering from TMJ Disorder. Symptoms of TMJ Disorder include:
- Jaw locking or clicking
- Pain in the TMJ joint(s)
- Pain or tenderness in your jaw
- Pain in the ear
- Pain in the neck
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
- Trismus (inability to open the mouth)
- Teeth grinding and the signs of teeth grinding
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
TMJ disorder can be caused by injury to the jaw, the jaw joints, or surrounding tissues. Other TMD causes include:
- Teeth grinding/clenching
- Dislocation of the disc between the jaw bone and jaw socket.
- TMJ arthritis
- Stress and anxiety
- Trauma to the jaw or joint
- Improper bite left untreated
In recent years, it has become increasingly common to see TMJ disorders increase in those who are heavy users of computers or laptops since improper jaw placement, sitting posture, clenching, and other contributing factors of TMJ disorder may be occurring.
How are TMJ Disorders Treated?
There are many treatment options for TMD, but the most common treatments involve pain medication, mouth guards (nightguards), botox injections, and physical therapy.
Nightguards for TMD
An occlusal appliance (nightguard), along with stress management, is often used to treat and prevent the problems associated with grinding and clenching. A custom nightguard is the best way to treat these problems since it provides the best fit, is less bulky, more comfortable, and is made of very durable acrylic material. An impression or 3D digital scan of the upper and lower teeth is all that is required to have a custom nightguard fabricated and can generally be made within two weeks.
Botox Injection for TMD
Additionally, Botox injections can be effective for treating TMJ pain. Pain in and around the jaw joint can be caused by muscle clenching. If this is the case, Botox injections can reduce the activity of these muscles, and may provide relief.
Physical Therapy for TMD
When a person sits with his/her head in a forward position, there is greater strain on the muscles beneath the chin. This strain causes the lower jaw to pull back toward the neck and the mouth to open, putting increased pressure on the jaw joint. Your dentist or doctor may ask you to be actively conscious of your posture throughout the day to address this common cause of TMD.
In addition to preventing strain, your dentist will also show you some massages and stretches to increase mobility and relieve pain in your jaw and joints. With consistent care in addition to the other solutions mentioned above, you can restore normal joint function and resolve your TMJ discomfort.
Chestnut Dental has helped many patients find a solution that works for their TMD symptoms and their lifestyle. Our office can provide you with a custom nightguard, TMJ botox treatments, and simple but effective stretches and exercises. If you are experiencing jaw discomfort or any of the TMD symptoms, don’t wait to seek relief.