tmj-anatomy-image

The temporomandibular (tem-puh-roe-man-DIB-u-lur) joint (TMJ) problems seem difficult to understand because there is a lot of variation in symptoms and a whole spectrum of treatments that work some of the time but not always. Simply put this is due to the fact that TMJ is not one simple disorder. There is at least a half dozen different problems that all affect the same set of muscles and joints so the symptoms mimic each other. However each of these different problems have a different cause and require a different treatment. A good thorough examination and a correct diagnosis is the key to success. Below is a list of a few of these disorders.

BRUXISM:

  • Cause - Bruxism is an abnormal grinding of the teeth most often occurring at night. The main cause is thought to be stress but alcohol and narcotics can also be causes.
  • Symptoms - Soreness in the muscles of the head and neck, often presenting as a sore neck upon awakening, may be pain in the TM joint, headaches, and teeth may be sensitive.
  • Treatment - The best treatment is to identify and eliminate the problem where possible. Failing at this we resort to damage control by making a night guard which will protect the teeth from further damage and reduce the symptoms.

UNEVEN BITE:

  • Cause - In patients with a large variety of different types of dental restorations all the different materials wear at different rates and high spots occur.
  • Symptoms - Localized sensitive teeth, muscle soreness in the head and neck, headaches, and the TM joint may be sore.
  • Treatment - This can be treated by a procedure called "Equilibration". The high spots in the occlusion are identified and carefully ground down until an even, comfortable, correct bite is achieved.

ORTHODONTIC PROBLEMS:

  • Cause - Crooked teeth, especially deep overbites, can cause discomfort in the muscles and joints of the head and neck.
  • Symptoms - Can be pain in the TM joints, soreness in the muscles of head and neck, and possible headaches.
  • Treatment - The best solution is to have orthodontic correction of the problem.

COLLAPSED BITE DUE TO MISSING TEETH:

  • Cause - Extracting teeth, especially in the posterior, can cause the bite to collapse and over close. Which may lead to the lower jaw pushing backwards and causing pain in the joints.
  • Symptoms - Pain in the TM joint, soreness in the muscles of the head and neck, and possible headaches.
  • Treatment - Full mouth reconstruction which will involve re-opening the bite and replacing all the missing teeth with bridges or implants. Orthodontic treatment may also be required.

DAMAGE TO THE TM JOINT:

  • Cause - Trauma or a disease process such as osteoarthritis.
  • Symptoms - Pain in the joint itself especially during movement. Muscles can also be sore.
  • Treatment - Surgical repair or replacement of the joint.

WHIPLASH INJURY:

  • Cause - This is primarily a neck injury generally resulting form trauma due to motor vehicle accidents or sports injuries.
  • Symptoms - Headaches, pain in the face, neck, and shoulders radiating down the back.
  • Treatment - Must be treated by a specialist in neck injuries. This could be an orthopedic specialist or it could be a chiropractor who specializes in these types of injuries. These chiropractors often have a NUCCA affiliation. National Upper Cervical Chiropractor's Association.

FINAL THOUGHT:

Most TMJ problems are a combination of more than one of the six problems described above. It is generally wise to spend a bit of time at he start examining each of the different problems and ruling out the ones that most likely do not apply and then consider some treatment of the remaining problems that may be a contributing factor.  Able Dental Group offers a variety of treatment options for all of these conditions. 

New Call-to-action

Browse Our Blog

    Recent Posts

    Saving your smile with dental implants free ebook