What is TMJ?

What is TMJ Disorder?

TMJ disorder refers to an array of problems stemming from the temporomandibular joint. Most people refer to these problems as ‘TMJ’, as in, ‘I’ve got TMJ.” Actually, everyone has TMJ, in that we all have two temporomandibular joints. The TMJ’s are the sliding hinges on both sides of your head that connects your jaw to your skull. You can feel them slightly in front of your ears. You likely have a TMJ disorder when that area hurts or when you’re opening and closing your mouth to speak or to eat.

TMJ bones are covered in cartilage and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk, which keeps the hinge moving smoothly. Many people suffer from pain when the bones, cartilage or the shock-absorbing disk become inflamed, irritated, damaged, or slide out of place.

The many and diverse symptoms of TMJ disorder can include any of the following:

· Chronic headaches

· Chronic earaches

· Facial pain

· Tender jaw

· Locking of the jaw, or inability or open or move jaw

· Difficulty chewing

· Popping or clicking jaw sounds

· Neck, shoulder, or back pain

· Grinding or clenching of teeth, especially during sleep


*While these are the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder, there are many other symptoms that have been linked to TMJ disorder.


Causes of TMJ disorder


The exact cause of TMJ symptoms varies from person to person. Causes can also be a combination of factors, including genetics or injury. Other causes include:

· Stress

· Arthritis

· Teeth grinding or clenching

· Inflammatory diseases

· Inflammation of the surrounding tissues

· Aging

· Injury

· Previous Orthodontics


Is TMJ the same as sleep apnea, snoring or teeth grinding?

No, although there is a strong relationship between TMJ disorder, sleep apnea, snoring, and bruxism (teeth grinding). If you aren’t able to position your jaw correctly at night for breathing you can end up snoring and clenching.

Snoring can be problematic for getting a restful night’s sleep. Not to mention snoring can disturb your partner. Snoring can also help in developing a dry mouth, which can lead to teeth/mouth problems. Snoring can progress to sleep apnea as we age or gain weight, and is a potentially life-threatening problem. Sleep apnea occurs when you continually stop breathing during the night and then abruptly start breathing again. Your dentist or physician can help you determine whether you should be tested for this.

TMJ disorder can be just a nuisance or it can be terrifically painful and debilitating. Many people don’t realize that those headaches and neck aches are actually due to wear and tear on their TMJ. Under lots of stress? Clenching? Grinding? These take their toll on your ‘jaw hinges’, teeth, and surrounding muscles and tissues, causing pain throughout your head and neck.

Solutions for TMJ?

First, tell your dentist about your symptoms. She or he will probably already know if you are a clencher or grinder from the appearance and condition of your teeth. There are some very simple solutions, to begin with:

Snore guards are devices you can wear at night to help quiet your snoring and can also stop you from grinding or clenching. These devices look kind of like athletic mouth guards or retainers worn after someone has had braces. Some come with a metal adjuster and some are made of soft silicone that holds your jaw in a forward position. Your specific needs will determine the type you should use.

If you're a clencher, Botox is a fantastic and easy fix. A small amount of the product is injected into the TMJ muscle and within a few days, the muscles begin to relax and get happy. Many of our patients swear by this technique for TMJ pain and headaches.

People who suffer from one or more of the problems (TMJ disorder, sleep apnea, snoring, bruxism) typically see that when they treat one problem, the others issues are treated or eased as well. Help your dentist help you by giving them ALL your symptoms, so a comprehensive plan can get you relief!

If you suffer from TMJ, snore, grind, or clench, the staff at Perfect Smile Tulsa can help you find the best solution! Click the "Request Appointment" button or call 918-212-8300 to make your appointment today!
Author
Mark M. Davis, DDS General and Cosmetic Dentist in Tulsa since 1982

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