What Causes TMJ Dysfunction and What Exactly Is It?

Are you experiencing pain around your jaw, but your teeth feel fine? You may be suffering from a condition known as TMJ dysfunction. The pain you are experiencing could be coming from your temporomandibular (TMJ) joints.
These are large joints in front of the ear connecting the skull and the lower jaw bone. It is these joints that allow your jaw to move in multiple directions while chewing or talking. Both pressure and dental issues can be a cause of TMJ dysfunction.
How do you know if this is the cause of your pain? Ask yourself a few of the following questions.

Do You Grind or Clench Your Teeth?

Some people who have this issue don’t even realize it. That’s because people who tend to grind or clench their teeth usually do it at night when they are asleep and unaware it is happening. If you are suddenly experiencing jaw pain, it may be a result of stress being put on your TMJ joints while you sleep.

Are You More Stressed Out?

During periods of increased stress in your life, you may wind up putting added pressure on your TMJ joints. Additional stress can impact your dental health in many ways, from excessively grinding teeth, to eating an unhealthy diet or slacking on basic dental hygiene.

Recent Trauma

If you’ve sustained a recent impact to your face or jaw, this may be the cause of your TMJ dysfunction.

How is TMJ Treated?

TMJ dysfunction treatments are recommended by both dentists and doctors. Surgery is only recommended as an absolute last option, when every other method has failed. Some common and less risky treatments include:

  • Bite Guards. People who suffer from jaw pain often benefit greatly from using a bite guard, which is also known as an oral splint. A guard that is professionally fitted by a dentist will yield the best results.
  • Muscle Relaxants. A doctor or dentist may prescribe this to use for a number of days or weeks to relieve pain from a clenched jaw.
  • Nighttime sedatives may be prescribed if clenching of the teeth or grinding is taking place while you sleep.

Buffer Teeth Damage with Mouth Guards: Types and Advantages

Are you an active sports player? When it comes to physical sports and activities, a mouth guard or mouth protector can be extremely helpful in cushioning a blow to the face.
It is a flexible, typically custom-fitted device worn over the teeth to protect them from injury or damage during recreational or athletic activities. If a person has fixed anterior bridgework, or wears braces, a perfect-fitting mouth protector is especially vital.
Apart from buffering damages from blows, a mouth guard can also act as a barrier between the cheeks and teeth, minimizing the risk of gum or soft tissue damage.
Typically, a mouth protector covers the upper teeth. But a Scottsdale dentist may recommend athletes to wear one for their lower teeth if they have a protruding jaw or are wearing dental appliances such as braces.

There are three mouth guard types, namely:

Stock mouth guards

These types of protectors come ready to wear and can readily be purchased in drug stores and sporting goods stores. Stock mouth guards are inexpensive. However, they do not fit well and are the least comfortable or protective. Plus, they can make breathing harder and talking more difficult. These pre-formed bulky guards, which are made of rubber or polyvinyl, may also increase a person’s tendency to gag.

Mouth-formed mouth guards

This type can either be a boil-and-bite or a shell liner kind. Unlike stock mouth guards, these types provide a better fit. A shell liner mouth guard is lined with rubber or acrylic gel that molds and sets to the teeth, while a boil-and-bite mouth protector is made of thermoplastic. By placing it in boiling water first, its user is able to form it to the contours of the teeth using pressure from the tongue and fingers.

Custom-fitted mouth guards

Among all three types, custom-fitted mouth protectors are the most expensive. However, they offer the greatest fit, protection and comfort as they are designed to precisely fit an individual’s set of teeth. All custom-fitted mouth guards are created in a dental office or a laboratory. Once your dentist takes an impression of your teeth, the dental technician then uses the impression as a mold to make the custom-fitted mouth protectors.

Why Use a Mouth Guard?

Because accidents can happen at any given time and during any physical activity, using a mouth protector can help limit the risk of injuries in the mouth including nerve damage, broken or chipped tooth, or even loss of tooth. An effective mouth protector should resist tear, not restrict your speech or breathing, be comfortable, and be easy to clean.
Teeth damage does not choose its victim. Whether or not you’re an athlete, a mouth guard should be a necessity when playing sports and any other recreational activity.
Talk to your Scottsdale dentist if you are contemplating purchasing a mouth guard. Your dentist will be able to recommend the most ideal mouth guard for your teeth. It is vital that a dentist evaluates your mouth before choosing a mouth protector because various sports and activities involve various levels of potential injuries.

Stop Your Teeth-Grinding and Clenching

Stop Your Teeth-Grinding and Clenching
Have you ever had teeth-clenching really bad that it resulted to a broken or chipped tooth? A lot of people had. It mostly happens during sleep but some people tend to do it during the day, too.
Clenching, which is sometimes accompanied by grinding, is a habit known as bruxism. This seemingly harmless action of clenching and grinding should be taken seriously because if done on a regular basis, it can take toll on your teeth and can also affect their supporting structures like jaw joint, muscles, skull and even the neck and shoulders.

The Causes

The common causes of clenching and grinding are as follows:

  • Stress
  • Poor dental work
  • Diseases such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Unaligned teeth
  • Use of Anti-depressants

The Harmful Effects

Effects of bruxism can range from a minor headache to an inflamed jaw joint which prevents a person suffering from clenching open his mouth wider than a few millimeters. Here are several more harmful effects clenching can do to your body:

  • Toothaches
  • Receding gums
  • Intermittent tooth sensitivity
  • Clicking or popping jaw
  • Broken/chipped/cracked teeth
  • Difficulty in chewing
  • Wearing out of tooth enamel
  • Earaches
  • Pain in the jaw joint
  • Stiff neck and/or shoulders

What You Can Do

If you think you have bruxism and feel that you are experiencing some of the clenching effects mentioned above, try to do the following:

  • Do a self-awareness check once in a while through your entire day. Make sure you are not in a deep-seated stress or anxiety.
  • To relieve you from stress, try adopting a new lifestyle—something that could alleviate your stress level to a minimum. Meditating would also help ease your anxiety by breathing in slowly and deeply through your nose and breathing out as slowly through your mouth.
  • Avoid biting down or chewing on hard food like nuts, candies, and even ice.
  • Let your Scottsdale dentist examine and evaluate your teeth. At the same time, ask about the treatment options available.

Treatment Options

Consider wearing a night guard. It will not only protect your teeth from further damages while you sleep, it will also reduce the force reaching your teeth. Have it custom-molded so it fits over your teeth perfectly.
There are various other treatments to restore the joint to its normal function and reduce muscle spasms. This includes acupuncture, physiotherapy, and massage therapy to name a few. Talk to your Scottsdale dentist for other advanced treatment options available.

About The Author

Dr. Boyle

Dr. Megan Peterson Boyle

Dr. Megan Peterson Boyle completed her Doctorate in Dental Medicine from Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine in Glendale, AZ. As a leader in the field of cosmetic dentistry and full-mouth rehabilitation, she is committed to providing exceptional dental care to the local community. She is also affiliated with prestigious organizations, including the American Dental Association. Her extensive involvement in these reputable institutions speaks to her commitment to advancing the field of dentistry.