Every body part plays an important role in a person’s life and for that matter each one of them should be cared for in their own way. Healthy teeth are essential in a person’s daily routine but because of their fragility, they can be harmed easily. Although there are many common ailments when it comes to our teeth, including tooth decay, gum disease and enamel degradation, there are also several issues which are not highlighted often enough, one of them being Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) syndrome.
While this mouthful of a name may have come as a shock, rest assured that it comes with a complete list of preventative methods and a comprehensive treatment procedure as well.
What Is TMJ?
In layman’s terms, TMJ syndrome is a disorder of the jaw muscles and nerves caused by inflammation or injury to our temporomandibular joint. Have we lost you? Let’s get down to the basics first. This particular joint which is a “hinge” that functions when the jaw opens and closes, has the sole purpose of connecting our jaw to our skull and when this is damaged, it can lead to a localized pain disorder called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Seeing as our temporomandibular joints are complex structures, which contain a plethora of muscles, tendons and bones, any injury to them can result in pain in and around the jaw area.
What Are the Symptoms?
Teeth pain is such that it doesn’t allow for subtlety; it comes barging in through the front door. TMJ syndrome follows a similar protocol. It begins with jaw pain that feels like a toothache on one or both sides, specifically at the area of the joint.
Once it’s clear that this pain is here to stay, it is loyally followed by difficulty chewing, clicking of the jaw, or popping of the ears. A lot of times, people mistake TMJ pain for an ear infection when in fact the ear is not a problem at all. In many cases, there can be blurred vision, swelling of the face or a lump in the temple area and headaches, including migraines, due to nerve inflammation and dislocation of the temporomandibular joint. Dizziness or vertigo can be some of the more extreme symptoms as well.
What Causes It?
Although there isn’t anyone particular factor contributing to TMJ syndrome, health care professionals agree that a combination of genetics, arthritis and jaw injury can be counted as sound culprits. One of the key causes can be a misalignment of the small shock-absorbing disk, which separate the bones that allows for smooth movement in the joint. Another negative variable can be if the joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis.
Similar to other joints in the body, arthritis can slowly cause loss of cartilage and formation of new bone at the surface of the joint. Then there is the possibility of the joint being injured by a blow or other form of impact. Several health professionals correlate it with long-term clenching and grinding of the teeth, claiming teeth get shortened, thereby, increasing the chances of the jaw over-closing and further causing extreme stress and pressure to the TMJ.
Where constant clenching of the jaw and grinding teeth has been known to lead to jaw pain in some cases, others who routinely do so have never complained of TMJ disorder.
How To Prevent It?
A nutritious diet and a regimented dental routine are usually the way forward to healthy teeth but in the case of TMJ disorder prevention, some precise methods and exercises can help keep it at bay. Make it a point to massage your jaws, cheeks, and temples regularly and practice good posture always. Try to avoid clenching and grinding your teeth and if this requires removing hard foods from your diet, then do so. While on the subject of food, be sure to take small bites and chew thoroughly with both sides of your mouth. While acute TMJ signs and symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks, they tend to resolve themselves in due time. It’s when you have a chronic condition with sharp pain lasting for months or years that you need to seek professional attention.
How Best To Treat It?
Having discussed the entire worrisome bit, we now come to the part, which alleviates the situation. A lot of the time the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorder tends to mend itself and can be relieved with self-managed care including home remedies, stress reduction and relaxation techniques.
You could apply ice packs to the affected area, consider eating soft foods until the pain dissipates, or massage the inflamed space using sedative essential oils. It’s when home remedies prove to be ineffective that a visit to the health professional becomes a must. In this scenario, a doctor will take the patient’s medical history into account, conduct a physical exam and if needed order an MRI of the temporomandibular joint to detect any possible damage to the cartilage of the jaw joint.
Nonsurgical treatments will be the first step here to provide long-term relief to the symptoms. A dental splint, resembling a mouth guard, may be suggested by a jaw specialist as an option to keep the teeth in alignment and prevent them from grinding against each other. Physical therapy can become a good alternative specifying jaw exercises, which will not only help strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and increase range of motion as well.
At German Dental, there is also the opportunity of a neuromuscular approach that uses a computerized diagnosis called Myotronics K7 to initially find and then relax the exact position where your posture, muscles and joints are enjoying a harmonious meet and greet. After which, a treatment solution is provided to support your bite in its new home. In severe cases where even these effective but non-invasive procedures don’t prove to be successful, surgery on the jaw or dental surgery may be necessary. Options may include mandibular removable or fixed orthotics and rehabilitation with crowns otherwise referred to as Full Mouth Rehabilitation (FMR).
Your mouth joints may not be as large as some of the others in your body, but they are just as integral to your overall good health. TMJ disorder has a tendency to begin as little more than jaw pain or a sense of fullness in the ears, but if left untreated can lead to severe swelling, blurred vision, migraines, or even dislocation of the jaw. And while these particular symptoms may be treated using home remedies and non-invasive methods, ultimately dental surgery may be required in some cases.
One way to keep ahead of the curb is to learn to read the symptoms early on and be sure to visit qualified health professionals regularly to avoid surgical treatments later on. Expert orthodontists at our dental clinic and will ensure patients receive the utmost care starting from the consultation all the way to post-care.