December 28, 2016
It’s a small hinge that connects the skull and jaw, but it can have huge implications on your oral and overall health. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the focus of many of our dental treatments, particularly orthodontics. The TMJ functions by moving side by side and then back and forth. To put it simply, this joint is the reason we can chew our food and speak. TMJ disorders can wreak havoc on your oral health and cause patients extreme headaches, jaw pains, and facial tension.
I’ve seen patients with jaw problems suffer for years before resolving their problems. Some of these patients spend years suffering or taking medication to dull the pain. What I’ve found over the years is that TMJ problems are often left untreated because not all doctors understand the problem. The truth is that about 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ disorders. Today I want to share 3 important facts about TMJ that you probably don’t know.
Take a look at these facts:
1. TMJ patients often experience clicking or popping of the jaw. While we don’t always know the exact cause of TMJ disorders, people with TMJ problems often hear clicking, popping, or grinding sounds when they open and close their mouths. This is especially true when the patient wakes up in the morning. I’ve helped patients with TMJ disorders who heard loud popping or clicking every time they chewed their food. TMJ can occur in men or women, but women between the ages of 20 and 40 are more likely to suffer from the problem.
2. Bruxism or clenching are symptoms of TMJ disorders. When the TMJ does not function properly, patients can experience the involuntary act of grinding or clenching their teeth. Patients can also grind or clench their teeth because of stress. This usually happens while the patient is asleep. Studies have found that about 8 percent of adults grind their teeth. The problem with bruxism or clenching is that it puts huge amounts of force on the jaw muscles, teeth, and facial muscles. People with bruxism often wake up with headaches and even risk grinding down their teeth or fracturing their teeth. Problems like bruxism have been linked to sleep apnea, and dentists have found that sleep apnea treatment also helps patients with bruxism.
3. An oral appliance can relieve the tension. Many patients with serious bite issues also suffer from TMJ issues. These patients are great candidates for comprehensive orthodontics. In fact, orthodontics might be the only thing that helps out their situation. For other patients, like the patients who grind or clench, we can help you with an oral appliance. The oral appliance is placed over the bottom of the teeth and prohibit you from grinding or clenching. When we can stop these habits of clenching or grinding, we can relieve the tension from the muscles. My patients who wear an oral appliance report almost immediate results. Their jaw and facial muscles go away. Their headaches subside. And best of all, they finally feel refreshed in the morning.
The oral appliance is a total breakthrough in treatment TMJ issues. Before the custom oral appliance, patient had to have surgery — which is incredibly invasive — or comprehensive orthodontics to fix the problem. At our office, we never want to put you through treatments you don’t need. The oral appliance is noninvasive and works instantly.
I hope these three facts have taught you a little more about TMJ. We consider TMJ issues to be an overall health problem, as it can affect your everyday life. If you are struggling with constantly headaches or jaw pains, call our office today at (757) 932-6856 or fill our convenient online form to request a visit.