Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder

The temporomandibular joint is the ball and socket joint that connects your jawbone to your skull. It’s one of the most frequently used joints in your body as well as one of the most flexible, enabling you to move your jaw freely and allowing you to speak, chew, yawn and laugh.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) therefore, is the term used when referring to your teeth and jaw being out of their correct alignment.

Varying factors can be attributed to TMD including:

  • Clenching and grinding of teeth (Bruxism)

  • Missing teeth causing surrounding teeth to move out of alignment

  • Repetitive strain on the jaw muscles (stress or physical activity)

  • A fracture or dislocation of the jaw caused by an accident or sport injury

  • Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis

  • Degenerative bone disorders

No matter the cause, TMD can lead to a variety of significant oral and general health problems.

These can include:

  • Pain when chewing

  • Limited jaw movement

  • Clicking or popping jaw

Grinding or clenching of teeth, (formally known as Bruxism), is a major factor associated with TMD. Either while awake or asleep, unconscious teeth clenching and grinding can lead to physically painful and severe dental problems including the loss of tooth enamel, increased tooth sensitivity and flattening and/or chipping of the teeth.

Bruxism sufferers who grind and clench their teeth while sleeping also frequently wake up with a sore jaw as well as experiencing a range of conditions including headaches, earaches, facial pain and even migraines.

While there is no single cure for TMJ, there are different treatments you can follow. Luckily jaw pain and TMD can be managed and corrected through a range of dental appliances and procedures.

Recently, treatments with Botulinum Toxin Type A., commonly known as Dysport, is proven to be one ideal treatment option for targeting and treating excessive muscle activity and spasticity. It has also been found to provide tremendous relief from jaw soreness and other unpleasant problems. As a result of the dysport treatments, the appearance of the jaw line can also appear softened.

The procedure includes injecting small doses of the dysport chemical directly into the masseter muscle (the muscle that moves the jaw), causing the muscle to become weakened enough to stop involuntary grinding/clenching the teeth and jaw. This significantly relaxes the muscle and reduces the harmful effects on the teeth due to grinding. Damage to the TMJ should also be reduced or eliminated. Voluntary movements including chewing and facial expressions are not affected at all by dysport.

Dysport (Bruxism)

Even though dysport injections are not a cure for Bruxism, they can effectively manage the uncomfortable symptoms better than a night-guard for some patients. Dysport used for treating Bruxism typically lasts for three to four months.

Alternatively, it is possible to correct these joint, muscle and teeth issues by having a custom occlusal splint made by our team.

An occlusal splint is a slim hard acrylic guard fitted to the upper jaw that covers the biting surface of the upper teeth. Designed to be worn at night, an occlusal splint will not stop the grinding or clenching of teeth. It does however, adjust the jaw into a neutral position, which relieves some of the pressure on the TMJ and effectively protects your teeth against the destructive forces of Bruxism.

However like Dysport and other treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications, dental devices, do not address the source of the issue causing effect. Although dental devices can protect from damage at night for Bruxism sufferers, it is an ineffective method in stopping the pain caused as a result of teeth grinding.

Further Treatment Options:

  • Trying to eliminate pain and spasms by taking medication such as muscle-relaxants, aspirin or other over-the-counter pain-relievers, or anti-inflammatory drugs, alternatively you can also apply moist heat to the area.

  • Reducing the harmful effects of clenching and grinding by wearing a bite plate or splint. This is custom-made to fit your mouth, with the appliance placed over the upper teeth, thus keeping them from grinding against lower teeth.

  • Relaxation techniques can help control muscle tension in the jaw. You can also seek training or counselling to help eliminate stress (this may be suggested by your dentist).

  • When the jaw joints are affected and alternate treatments have been ineffective, jaw joint surgery may be recommended.

On a final note, as TMD can evolve over a long period, corrective treatment may need to be ongoing.

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