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TMJ Disorders

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A Guide to TMJ Disorders

Temporomandibular (TMJ) disorder is a condition affecting the temporomandibular joint, which connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull and is located in front of the ear.

Known as TMJ, TMD or TMJD, the area also includes muscles surrounding the jaw, as well as blood vessels, bones and nerves.

This part of the face works to coordinate movements of the chew such as chewing and biting, while any ailment in this area can affect the flexibility of the jaw. Individuals often notice pain while talking, yawning or chewing, as well as while the jaw is rested.

Unfortunately, any problems with this body part can cause intense pain, which can be either intermittent or constant and last for a number of years if left untreated by a dental professional.

What are the symptoms of this condition?

Those people who suffer from TMJ can experience a number of symptoms that cause severe discomfort, including:

  • Intense pain that is not only in the face and jaw, but also the neck and shoulders
  • An overstretched sensation in the joints, as well as muscle spasms
  • Nausea, headaches or dizziness
  • Trouble with swallowing
  • Pain during jaw movements such as talking or yawning
  • Swelling of the face and mouth
  • A shifting in the position of the pearly whites or a change in the bite
  • Clicking or popping sound when moving the joint, which can sometimes be heard by other people
  • Difficulty opening the jaw fully, or the area moving to one side after opening
  • Pain in the ear, which can develop in the form of tinnitus, ringing or a loss of hearing

How is the issue diagnosed?

During an appointment with a dental professional, patients will be asked to take part in a clench test, which will gauge the intensity of the pain. Those individuals who experience discomfort in any one tooth or all pearly whites and the jaw when they bite down are likely to be diagnosed with TMJ.

To confirm this diagnosis, a practitioner will then create mould impressions of the teeth and mount these on an articulator to determine the extent of the problem. Through this, they will be able to tell if there is a structural disorder inside the joint, or other factors arw affecting the region.

What are the options for treatment?

Dental appliances – Patients with no structural disorder in their joint, but slight interferences affecting the bite may be administered with a device to correct this treatment.

Occlusal equilibration – This is the most common option to remove deflective intrusions and enables the jaw to close down properly. During the process, the surfaces of the pearly whites involved in biting are reshaped.

Before the procedure is carried out, a dentist will examine the occlusion and joints to ensure the best course of action is being taken.

Mouth guards – A plastic shield – similar to those worn by people who take part in high-contact sports – can be fitted to protect the teeth against grinding during the night.

Surgical treatment – If a dental professional believes the issue is caused by a structural problem and if pain is not relieved through occlusal equilibration or the use of splits, an X-ray will be taken.

Following this, an intra-oral appliance could be recommended, depending on the results of the scans.

Orthroscopy – This type of surgery involves an incision being made at the temple to insert an endoscope into the area. Then, using images provided by this tool, a surgeon will remove adhesions or reposition the disc.

Can I treat the symptoms myself?

While it is likely TMJ will require attention from a dentist at some point, there are a number of steps individuals can take the following measures:

  • Apply hot and cold packs to the side of the face for ten minute durations to reduce the pain
  • Eat soft foods only and abstain from anything that requires heavy chewing
  • Avoid yawning or any other extended jaw movements, while also limiting the amount of pressure place on this area
  • Continue with any dental treatment for tooth decay
  • Take anti-inflammatory medication, anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants can provide relief from intense discomfort.

Are there any alternative treatments?

Alternative options for TMJ include radiowave therapy and ultrasound, which works by sending radiowaves or low-intensity energy to the affected region to stimulate the flow of blood to the area.

These courses of action do not work to fix the causes of the problem and should only be utilised for temporary relief.

How can I prevent the problem?

Individuals who experience pain in their jaw occasionally should avoid eating hard foods, chewing gum or biting hard objects. In addition, supporting the lower part of the mouth with the hand during yawning can also help.

Pearl Dental Clinic is open 7 days a week from 9am to 9pm. You can book an appointment by calling us on 0208 547 9997 or emailing us or booking an appointment online.

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