Recurring headaches, neck and/or jaw pain, worn teeth, and a persistent clicking or popping of the jaw joint are all signs of temporomandibular disorder or TMD — often referred to as TMJ.
Our dentists have extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of bite disorders such as TMJ and can help patients achieve results that will not only relieve symptoms but address overall dental health. We apply the principles of complete dentistry, taking a comprehensive approach to evaluating a patient’s bite. Complete dentistry goes beyond treating the symptoms of a bite disorder and seeks to identify and treat the underlying cause to restore balance to the bite.
What is TMJ?
TMJ, or the temporomandibular joint, is a small joint located in front of your ears, responsible for the opening and closing of the mouth. TMJ is also commonly used to describe a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) in which the jaw joints or teeth do not fit together properly, resulting in an imbalance in the bite.
In almost all cases, a TMJ disorder will cause tooth wear and may contribute to tooth decay and/or (gum) disease.
What Causes TMJ?
There is no single cause for TMJ dysfunction. Any number of factors or combination of factors may be to blame including:
- Injury to the head, neck or face
- Arthritis in the TMJ joint
- Hormonal changes or imbalances
- Malocclusion (where the jaws do not line up correctly resulting in bite problems)
Common Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
As with the causes, symptoms of TMJ disorder vary greatly between patients. TMJ symptoms often mask themselves or are similar to those of other medical conditions, making diagnosis difficult. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Teeth grinding or clenching, often characterized by tooth wear
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Limited mobility in the jaw
- Clicking or popping when opening or closing jaw
Oral Appliance Therapy
Our dentists may recommend the use of an oral appliance such as a mouth guard or dental splint to alleviate specific symptoms of TMJ disorder. A mouth guard or splint is often a first step, used early in treatment and not needed as a long term solution. A dental split can be helpful to help identify a comfortable and stable bite position.
When appropriate, the dentist will perform occlusal equilibration – or bite correction, to bring the teeth into proper contact. This will allows the jaw to open and close in its proper position and eliminate stress on the joints and resulting pain.
This process is a series of adjustments made to the teeth which may include:
- Removing tooth structure
- Applying dental crowns or porcelain veneers
- Orthodontic treatment
- Implant dentistry
If the teeth are not in proper position, orthodontics may be needed to reposition the teeth, allowing them to fit together harmoniously. We offer Invisalign for adults who wish to avoid traditional metal braces.
In cases where teeth have been significantly worn and damaged restorative dentistry may be needed to bring the teeth back to their proper health and beauty. The dentist may use dental crowns, porcelain veneers, or cosmetic bonding to restore teeth.