Does your jaw make a clicking or popping sound when you open or close your mouth? Is eating food or speaking sometimes uncomfortable? TMJ disorder can have devastating effects on a person’s oral health and well-being. Fortunately, for those suffering from TMJ dysfunction, there are treatment options available to you that can include restorative dental work, therapeutic massage, and jaw surgery. Since TMJ disorder tends to worsen without treatment, it is best to enlist the help of a dentist or oral surgeon to reclaim your quality of life and oral function.
What is the TMJ?
The TMJ is a joint that connects the lower jawbone (mandible) to the skull. Each person has two TMJs on each side of his or her face, just under the ears. The TMJ, along with neighboring muscles and ligaments, is responsible for all mouth movement. TMJs are engaged every time you speak, eat, laugh, and yawn.
What causes the TMJ to dysfunction?
A damaged or dysfunctioning TMJ can be caused by a multitude of issues. Sometimes misaligned teeth or jaw bones contribute to TMJ disorder by placing unnecessary stress on the TMJ and its neighboring soft tissue. Orthodontic and jaw alignment problems stress the TMJ because they cause a person to have a malocclusion (improper bite). Worn dentition (tooth wear) also affects the TMJ because worn down teeth will affect the way that the jawbones and TMJs fit together when the mouth is at rest. Bruxism (the act of clenching and grinding teeth) is another habit that stresses and damages the TMJ over time. Many times, bruxism is a response to stress that becomes habitual. Traumatic injuries to the face can also affect the function of the temporomandibular joint.
When is jaw surgery necessary?
There are a few different types of protocols for treating TMJ disorder. If TMJ problems are caused by bruxism, a general dentist may prescribe a protective mouth guard to be worn at night. This mouth guard will relieve stress on the TMJ and protect teeth from damage. In other cases, treatment to promote a healthier bite will be used including orthodontic appliances and restorations like crowns. Orthognathic (jaw) surgery becomes necessary when other treatment options do not provide relief for patients by improving their symptoms and oral function. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon may recommend jaw surgery if the TMJ itself is permanently damaged or if the jaw bones are misaligned.
To learn more about your treatment options, call us to schedule a consultation today!