TMD/ TMJ Diagnosis and Treatment - Bloor Dufferin Dental Centre
More than 10 million Americans suffer from problems with their TMJ, yet most people don't know exactly what TMJ is. Have you ever experienced pain in your lower jaw? Pain when you chew on your food? TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) connects the jawbone to the skull and is essentially responsible for eating, speaking, and making facial expressions.
TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) is a condition that affects the function of the TMJ, which can result in chronic ear pain, jaw stiffness and soreness, difficulty opening the mouth, jaw popping or clicking, and headaches.
There are many causes of TMJ disorders:
- Cartilage wear and tear- The cartilage disks that pad the TMJ become worn or displaced, causing painful grinding of the jaw bone.
- Dislocated TMJ- Dislocation of the joint is indicated by popping and cracking noises when the jaw is open or closed, and may negatively affect movements of the jaw and strain the musculature of the jaw, face, and neck.
- Clenching and grinding- Habitual clenching and grinding of the teeth places extreme pressure and strain on the joints. Cartilage disks wear and tear due to the stress, resulting in pain at the joint or joint dislocation in extreme cases.
- Misaligned bite- If the bite of the upper and lower teeth are not aligned properly, everyday jaw movements like chewing can pressure the TMJ and strain the surrounding musculature.
- Arthritis- All of the factors above can lead to TMJ inflammation, causing swelling in the adjoining tissues, ligaments, and muscles.
Depending on the severity of your condition, there are a number of possible treatment options.
Sleep apnea and snoring
- Night guards- TMJ night guards are custom made plastic guards that are worn over the upper and lower teeth to prevent grinding of the teeth.
- Bite therapy- Treatment begins by finding the causes of your disorder and coming up with a long term pain relief solution. For some cases, TMJ pain is due to stress related teeth grinding. For other cases, pain is due to misalignment of upper and lower teeth. Dentists have tools to measure bite pressure throughout the mouth and then formulate a solution plan.
- TMJ exercises- These are designed to relax the jaw and reduce clenching, and also to help correct alignment problems. Simple exercises will be taught by dentists and patients can practice them at home in front of a mirror. Gradually, these exercises can train you to control your jaw muscles and eliminate clenching.
Another rising issue with TMD is its correlation with sleep apnea and snoring. The tongue's position is heavily impacted by the alignment of the upper and lower teeth. When the teeth are misaligned, the tongue can be altered to block the airway. The blockage of airway leads to decreased or episodes of no breathing- sleep apnea. While a MAD (mandibular advancement device) is suggested as a treatment option, TMD patients with teeth misalignment may have troubles using one.
Dr. Tom Nguyen is skilled in finding out the causes of TMJ symptoms and developing an appropriate treatment strategy. The Bloor Dufferin Dental team is also happy to discuss any TMD related sleeping issues. In cases of serious TMJ pain, please contact us for dental emergency services.