Jaw Joint Treatment
Many adults suffer from chronic facial pain. Some common symptoms include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth, or headaches and neck pain.
Two joints and several jaw muscles make it possible to open and close the mouth. They work together when you chew, speak or swallow. They include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone–the mandible (lower jaw) with two joints called the temporomandibular joints or “TMJ.”
The TM joints are among the most complex joints in the body. Located on each side of the head, they work together to make many different movements, including a combination of rotating and gliding actions used when chewing and speaking.
Several muscles also help open and close the mouth. They control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward, and side-to-side. Both TM joints are involved in these movements. Each TM joint has a disc between the ball and socket. The disc cushions the load while enabling the jaw to open widely and rotate or glide. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.
Diagnosis & Treatment
A thorough exam and appropriate x-rays can help identify the source of the pain. Often, the pain may be from a sinus problem, a toothache or an early stage of periodontal disease. But for some types of pain, the cause is not easily diagnosed. The pain may be related to the facial muscles, the jaw or the TM joint.
Some TM problems result from arthritis, dislocation or injury. All of these conditions can cause pain and dysfunction. Muscles that move the joints are also subject to injury and disease. Injuries to the jaw, head or neck, and diseases such as arthritis, might cause some TM problems. Other factors relating to the way the upper and lower teeth fit together (the bite) may cause some types of TM disorders. Stress and teeth grinding are also considered as possible factors.
Diagnosis is an important step before treatment. Part of the dental examination includes checking the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving. In addition, your complete medical history may be reviewed and possibly dental models or “casts” may be made to evaluate how the upper and lower teeth fit together. Depending on the diagnosis, you may be referred to a physician or another dentist specializing in TMJ treatment.
There are several treatments for TMJ disorders. They may include stress-reducing exercises, wearing a mouth protector to prevent teeth grinding, orthodontic treatment, medication or surgery. Treatment may involve a series of steps beginning with the most conservative options. In many cases, only minor, relatively non-invasive treatment may be needed to help reduce the pain.
Teeth grinding and clenching is very common among adults and children as well. It’s called bruxism and often it happens during sleep. It’s most often a result of stress and anxiety but sleep disorders, an abnormal bite or teeth that are missing or crooked can be contributing factors as well.
Symptoms include a dull headache or a sore jaw.
You could have teeth that are painful or loose from severe grinding. This can lead to fractures in your teeth.
Bite Splint (night guard)
Your can be fit for a custom made bite splint (night guard) to help protect your teeth during sleep. A night guard is a proactive step to protect your existing healthy teeth. A clear, thin removable device, your custom-made bite splint is worn over your lower or upper teeth as you sleep.
Studies suggest those who grind and clench their teeth may experience up to 80 times the normal tooth wear per day compared to those who do not. The good news is that a simple bite splint can offset the effects of this often-subconscious habit while protecting your teeth from daily wear and tear.
A NTI “Nociceptive Trigeminal Inhibition” appliance is a FDA approved device to be used:
- in the prophylactic treatment of medically diagnosed migraine pain
as well as migraine associated tension-type headaches,
by reducing their signs and symptoms through reduction of trigeminally innervated muscular activity.
- For the prevention of bruxism and TMJ syndrome through reduction of trigeminally innervated muscular activity
The NTI appliance protects teeth, muscles and joints by suppressing parafunctional muscle contraction by almost 70%.
Sports Mouth Guard
More than 5 million teeth are knocked out in sporting activities each year. While this number is staggering, the American Dental Association estimates that more than 200,000 oral injuries are prevented every year thanks to the use of sports mouth guards. Statistics show that when worn properly, a protective mouthpiece decreases the risk of injury by 99 percent.
While many sporting good stores sell mouth guards, these versions are not as effective as the sports mouthpiece offered by your dentist. That’s because store-bought mouth guards cannot be altered and require you to keep your mouth clenched for maximum protection. Custom mouth guards, however, are made using an exact duplication of your mouth and will stay in place with no effort. This gives you the ability to put your attention where it belongs: on the game!