TMJ Dysfunction (TMD)
If you are suffering from headaches or other facial related pain you could suffer from TMD. Our dentists are skilled in its diagnosis and treatment and may well be able to help treat its cause.
The temporomandibular joint is referred to as simply TMJ. When we talk about issues with this area, we are referring to TMD which refers to temporomandibular joint dysfunction (sometimes called temporomandibular joint disorder). All these acronyms have led to some confusion, often when someone says they suffer from TMJ they really mean they suffer from TMD.
To begin with you can identify the TMJ by placing your fingers on your jaw line just in front of your earlobes. When your jaw opens and closes you can feel the movement of the temporomandibular joints.
What are the symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction?
Symptoms may include the following:
- sore jaws
- neck and back pain
- ear aches or ringing ears
- headaches or migraines
- sinus problems
- teeth that don't feel like they are biting correctly
- pain when chewing or yawning
- limited opening of the jaws
- pain on opening or closing of the jaw
- facial tension
- clicking jaw
- locked jaw
What are the causes of TMJ Dysfunction?
The causes of TMD are numerous with many causes being responsible:
- grinding and or clenching of the teeth
- stress: emotional and/or physical
- dental fillings not properly adjusted
- bad occlusion
- injuries to the jaw joint
- autoimmune disorders (such as osteo or rheumatoid arthritis)
- anatomical deformities.
- ear infections
Diagnosing TMJ Dysfunction
Diagnosis of TMD can be difficult due to its numerous causes and symptoms. A systematic approach must be performed by your Superior Smiles dentist to rule out all possible causes before treatment can be commenced. Our dentists will normally coordinate with other healthcare professionals to prepare a treatment plan so that all aspects of the problem, being physical and/or emotional are dealt with.
Patients will be referred to a general medical practioner to exclude it being a medical problem if it does not appear to be a dental problem.
Treatment of TMJ Dysfunction
If symptoms are acute (very painful or can’t open jaw), these will be dealt with immediately using medication, an occlusal splint (see below), and/or physiotherapy. After dealing with the acute symptoms the patient is then treated as a chronic (long-term, non-severe) sufferers.
- Resolve Dental Infections
- Occlusal Splint Therapy
- Soft Diet
- Heat Packs
- Stress Management
- Facial Injectables
- Orthodontia or Maxillofacial Surgery
Resolve all dental infections
Repair any abscess, caries or gum issues.
Occlusal splint therapy (appliance therapy)
An occlusal splint works by preventing your teeth from touching each other. As the muscle memory in your jaw relaxes these muscles become reprogrammed without the stress and tension. This helps to overcome bruxism (grinding your teeth) and often reduces headaches. They are similar to a mouthguard in appearance and are worn during sleep to prevent the pain and discomfort associated with nocturnal bruxism.
Acute sufferers are recommended to eat with their splint in place until symptoms are relieved. Non-acute sufferers are advised of the problems associated with chewing gum and hard diets (eg nuts, bones), and it is recommended that hard foods are temporarily removed from the diet.
Heat packs applied to the area for symptom relief
Your Superior Smiles dentist can give you exercises to help relax your jaw muscles.
A trained myotherapist who has expertise in massaging the area can offer great muscular relief. Some medical specialists believe that muscular tension in other areas of your body can have a knock-on effect thus causing TMD, so in some cases a complete body assessment is highly recommended.
There are many possibilities in our modern medical world to help relieve stress, such as yoga, naturopathic remedies and counselling. Sometimes the patient must try several options until they find one that suits them.
Dentists in Australia have been allowed to use this for TMD for many years now with excellent results. Dr Gopal has completed additional studies on this on this area of treatment and has advanced knowledge in how to use it and where it is appropriate.
Orthodontia or Maxillofacial Surgery
Surgery is always the last option and is only recommended once all other possibilities have been exhausted.
The only conclusive way to deal with TMD is a complete treatment plan.