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What Is TMJ and How Is It Treated?

The Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is vital to a healthy life. In order to perform basic yet necessary human functions such as breathing, speaking, eating, and drinking, we rely on our TMJ to function optimally. 

What is TMJ and How Is It Treated? 

The Temporomandibular Joint or TMJ for short, is the complex interaction between your teeth, your mandible, your muscles, and your nervous system that work together to control the movement of your lower jaw. The joint acts as a hinge, allowing you to breathe, talk, eat, yawn along with opening and closing your mouth. When the functioning of the TMJ suffers, it is known as a TMJ disorder, a TMD. 

What Is TMJ? 

So, what is TMJ? Your TMJ is the functioning of your joint that allows for your jaw muscles to pivot to open and close your mouth. It comprises your teeth, your muscles, your mandible, and your nervous system. 

The mandible is the largest bone in the human skull. It is facilitated by four muscles that require the nervous system to communicate movement and essentially, tell them what to do. These muscles are the masseter, the temporal, and two pterygoids and are vital to the healthy functioning of your TMJ. 

The health and alignment of your teeth can also impact the health of your TMJ and how it is treated.

When you experience pain and discomfort that impacts the functioning of your TMJ, it is likely that is it is a Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD). 

This can result in symptoms such as: 

  • Facial pain, in your jaw and temporomandibular joint
  • A clicking sensation in your jaw
  • Trouble opening and closing your mouth
  • Trouble eating, swallowing, and speaking 
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Light-headedness/ dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Numbness in your arms and fingers

If you are only experiencing mild and temporal symptoms, it may not be a TMD disorder. If symptoms persist, we advise you seek a professional opinion. Here at Casey Dentists Townsville, we offer leading TMJ dentistry services. For more information on how we can help with TMJ disorders, get in touch with our friendly team today.

What Are the Main Causes of TMJ Dysfunction?

TMJ dysfunction may occur as a result of occlusal ( bite )  trauma or an injury inflicted to the Temporomandibular joint.  

The most common cause of TMD however, is microtrauma. Nocturnal bruxism is often a contributing factor, where involuntary clenching, gnashing and grinding of the teeth whilst you sleep, contribute to chronic jaw pain and discomfort. 

Disordered TMJ functioning or TMD, can also result from:

  • Ongoing anxiety or stress
  • Postural pain stemming from the lower back
  • Blocked airways while you sleep; Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB)
  • Arthritis and Joint Osteoarthritis
  • Teeth grinding, gnashing, or clenching (Bruxism)
  • Misalignment or malocclusion of the teeth
  • Overuse

Any underlying conditions you may have will determine the health of your TMJ and how it is treated. 

How is TMJ treated?

TMJ disorders are treated by diagnosing the cause of the pain and discomfort first. A thorough examination of the patient’s history will be conducted, analysing your range of motion, your postural and cranial nerve health, the health of your muscle palpation, its texture, and tone, as well as a deep look into the functioning of your autonomic nervous system.

Your dentist may recommend oral medication, muscle relaxants, dental devices, and occlusal appliances, orthodontic work, or oral surgery depending on the severity of your symptoms.

The reason for your TMJ dysfunction will determine the right treatment for you. While TMD cannot always be resolved entirely by treatment options, many techniques can relieve pain and discomfort. To this effect, conditions such as Arthritis and joint Osteoarthritis will require treatment that focuses on keeping symptoms at bay, as there are currently no cures available.

The treatment of your TMJ dysfunction can be aided by some lifestyle and behavioural modifications. This may include implementing a routine that lessens anxiety and stress that contribute to muscle tension in your jaw. Alternatively, you may be recommended a diet consisting of softer, more chewable foods.

Who Treats TMJ Dysfunction?

TMJ dysfunction and how it is treated will be determined by the nature and severity of your condition. A dentist will be able to recognise what treatment plan is best suited to you, in which case you may be referred to a physician or a specialist dentist such as an oral surgeon, or orthodontist. 

Is TMJ a Dental Problem?

So, is TMJ a Dental Problem? Most likely, but not always.

Microtrauma affecting the healthy functioning of the TMJ is primarily caused by dental bruxism; the clenching, gnashing and grinding of your teeth. Nocturnal bruxism in particular is an involuntary action that occurs whilst you sleep. A dentist or specialist dentist can treat a dental problem by identifying any underlying conditions, the source of the pain, and the reason for it.  

Alternatively, TMJ dysfunction can be a medical problem if you are experiencing any diseases or other medical conditions that result in inflammation or facial and jaw pain. Your dentist can advise you on who is best to treat your concerns.

Call in the Experts at Casey Dentists

Symptoms worsen over time, so if you are experiencing any discomfort or immobility in your jaw, we advise you contact your local dentist as soon as is convenient. At our practice, Casey Dentists in Townsville, we focus on developing an understanding of your concerns and any anxiety you may be feeling towards your treatments. Book an appointment with us online or give us a call on 07 4725 3324. Our experienced dentistry team will guide you through your journey to a pain free you!