Temporomandibular Joint – TMJ The temporomandibular joint, otherwise known as TMJ, can often be a source of pain for patients and frequently is misunderstood for the disease – temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Simply put, the difference between the two is that the TMJ is the joint that connects the upper jaw (maxilla) to the lower jaw (mandible), and TMD is the malfunction of the TMJ.
The TMJ is connected with a complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bone. Like any other joint in the body, the TMJ can undergo degenerative processes that lead to it working incorrectly. TMD can have several different signs or symptoms. The most common of these are headaches, earaches, popping or clicking sounds when opening or closing your mouth, jaws getting locked in the open position, sore jaw muscles, pain during yawning or opening your mouth wide or a sudden change in the way your teeth bite together. However, having these signs or symptoms does not necessarily mean that you a disorder of the TMJ. Your dentist can help you assess whether or not you any issues or concerns with your TMJ by taking a thorough medical and dental history, carrying out a clinical exam and taking the appropriate x-rays. Treating TMD is not a simple task and there is no single or clear answer to curing it. However, there are recommended methods for reducing the symptoms significantly, thus bringing relief and slowing down the degenerative pathway. Your dentist can help you decide which course of treatment is best for you and which one will bring about the best relief. One such treatment is trying to eliminate muscle spasms of the joint. This can be accomplished through the application of moist heat, muscle relaxants and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medications. Another method of reducing stress on your TMJ is to reduce the harmful effects of nighttime grinding or clenching of your teeth. This usually occurs during stressful moments in a person’s life and can be harmful not only to your TMJ but also your teeth. Although clenching or grinding cannot be eliminated by any known remedies, the effects from them can be significantly reduced by wearing a bite plane or splint which is known as a night-guard. This a specialized mouth guard worn by patients at night that is custom made to their teeth. This gives the patient something softer to grind against which not only reduces the stress on the TMJ but also the stress on the teeth. Stress reduction, jaw relaxation techniques and physiotherapy are other methods that can help with TMD. If none of these methods produce any significant change, then jaw joint surgery may be suggested. However, this is a last resort and has limited benefit. As always, it’s best to sit down and speak with your own dentist. If you are looking for a Langley dentist, then give Langley Village Dental a call today at 604-510-5300.