TMJ DISORDERS AND TREATMENT
Known as TMJ, TMD or TMJD temporomandibular disorder is a condition affecting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) , which connects the mandible or the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull, which is located in front of the ear. The TMJ includes the muscles surrounding the jaw, blood vessels, bones and nerves. A person will have two TMJs, one located on each side of the jaw.
The TMJ mainly works to coordinate movements of the jaw, like chewing and biting. Any disorder in this area will therefore affect the flexibility of the jaw. You may notice pain while talking, yawning or chewing, and even while the jaw is at rest. TMJ disorder can cause intense pain, which can be intermittent, or can be constant and last for many years.
Symptoms of TMJ disorder
Diagnosis of TMJ Disorder
Since TMJ is accompanied by an onset of pain, your dentist will gauge the intensity of pain by administering a “clench” test. If you experience pain in any one tooth or all teeth or the jaw when you bite down, your dentist will diagnose it as TMJ. To confirm this diagnosis and to evaluate the position of the temporomandibular joint, your dentist will create mold impressions of your bite, and mount these on an articulator. Through this, your dentist can determine if there is a structural disorder inside the joint, or other factors like uneven teeth are affecting the joint.
Treatment of TMJ Disorder
Occlusal equilibration is the most frequently used option to remove deflective interferences, and enable the jaw to close down properly. It involves the reshaping of the teeth surfaces that are involved in biting. Your dentist will examine the occlusion and the joints, before he recommends a particular treatment.
The dentist may fit you with a plastic shield that acts like a mouth guard to protect your upper or lower teeth. This guard or splint can protect your teeth against teeth grinding when worn at night. If the splint causes pain, discontinue use.
If there is no structural disorder in the joint, but your dentist notices interferences that affect the bite, he may suggest correcting the problem using an appliance.
If your dentist believes that your problem is caused by a structural disorder, and if your pain is not relieved through occlusal equilibration or the use of splints, then he will recommend an X-ray. He may also recommend an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to have a look at the soft tissue that surrounds the joint. In some cases, he may even order a CT scan to check the bony parts of the jaw. He will refer you to surgeon.
First aid for TMJ
To treat intense pain before you meet with your dentist, try the following self help remedies.
Alternative Treatments for TMJ
Alternative treatments for TMJ include TENS (Transcutanaous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), radiowave therapy and ultrasound. Radiowave therapy and TNS work by sending radiowaves or low-intensity energy waves to the affected region to stimulate the flow of blood to the area. These alternative treatments do not work to treat the causes of TMJ, and can only be relied on for temporary relief.
After TMJ treatment, follow your dentist’s instructions, including prescribed medication, hot and cold compresses or jaw exercises.
Prevention of TMJ disorder
If you notice jaw pain occasionally, avoid eating hard foods, chewing gum or biting on hard objects. Support your lower jaw with your hand when you yawn. If you find yourself grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw at night, consult your dentist - he may be able to design a splint for you to protect your teeth.