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Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)

tmjTMJ is condition which affects the muscles and joints in the lower jaw. Often referred to as ‘myofacial pain disorder’ TMJ is surprisingly common with up to 30% of adults in the UK suffering from it in one way or another.

When our teeth sit correctly our bite is healthy. This means that there is minimal wear on our teeth and we are able to eat comfortably with no pain in the joints or muscles of the jaw.

Unfortunately, problems with bite can be easily caused by a number of things including broken, worn or loose teeth and recent dental work. A common cause of TMJ is grinding of the teeth at night as a result of stress.

With a normal bite the chewing surfaces of our teeth should only wear slightly during a lifetime (around 11microns every 100 years). However, excess force caused by bruxism (grinding) or missing and loose teeth can increase this wear significantly.

The signs of TMJ

While not considered a serious medical condition, for many patients the effects of TMJ can be debilitating, causing problems with eating, talking and general discomfort on a daily basis. While some patients will notice an improvement within just a few days or weeks for others it can last for many months.

Any discomfort usually stays around the jaw area although can transfer over time to other parts of the body- resulting in headaches or neck and back pain.

Are you concerned that you are suffering with temporomandibular joint disorder? If you have noticed any of the symptoms listed below then there is a chance you might be.

  • Struggling to eat particularly hard of chewy foods in comfort
  • Clicking, popping or grinding noises in the ear when you eat.
  • Any unexplained pain in the jaw.
  • Significant wear in the teeth.
  • A feeling as if your teeth simply don’t ‘fit’ together.
  • An inability to open your mouth fully when eating, talking or laughing.
  • A blocked sensation or buzzing noise in the ears.
  • Pain in the ear, cheek or temples.
  • Frequent headaches.
  • Pain or aching in the neck.

Treatment of TMJ

At Inspired Dentistry we are one of only a few practices who can provide specialist care and advice to help.

We are able to supply you with a specially made deprogrammer which will allow us to analyze your bite and investigate the ways in which it could be improved.

This small, discreet plastic device will need to be worn for around one week. It works by preventing your back (or posterior) teeth from touching- therefore allowing the muscles to relax. This gives your jaw some time to re-seat itself helping to reduce any wear on the teeth and joints. Often the wearer will notice an instant improvement.

Following use of the deprogrammer we are able to fully realign the old bite or build you a custom made device. Generally this will happen in one visit and will require no anaesthetic. The process is quick, easy and very precise.

In addition we could:

  • Fit you with a specially made mouth guard to stop you grinding your teeth at night.
  • Prescribe strong painkillers or muscle relaxants if standard painkillers aren’t working for you.
  • Refer you to a maxillofacial surgeon for further treatment and advice if required. Particularly severe or complex cases of TMJ may require surgery.

Won’t my TMJ just get better with time?

While some patients find their symptoms disappear after just a few days, others can suffer for many months and even years. Left untreated, TMJ can start to affect your daily life in a number of ways- often causing problems with sleep- so it’s important to visit us if you do have any worries at all.

If we are able to re-seat your bite with a deprogrammer this will result in:

  • Reduced pain in the jaw.
  • Reduced wear on your teeth.
  • Less chance of damage to crowns, fillings and other restorations.
  • Stronger more healthy teeth.
  • More precise and effective bite.

Tips to help with TMJ at home

The majority of patients who are suffering with TMJ do benefit from a deprogrammer.

There are a number of ways in which you can try to improve the symptoms of (or lesson your chances of developing) TMJ at home.

  • Try to rest your jaw regularly when you get chance. Have ‘soft food days’. Avoid particularly chewy foods like sweets and gum.
  • Help to reduce any pain or swelling by placing a warm or cold flannel on your jaw throughout the day.
  • Perform some gentle jaw stretching exercises on a daily basis (we can advise you).
  • Try to avoid clenching or grinding your teeth (you might find yourself doing this unintentionally).
  • Regularly massage the muscles around your jaw and neck
  • Practice relaxation and breathing techniques to help relieve stress levels
  • Try not to rest your chin on your hand.

If you are worried you might be suffering from TMJ or have noticed other symptoms which are causing concern then call us on 02380 328 888.

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