The joints located on each side of your head that make it possible to open and close your mouth are known as the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). These joints work together to also aid in chewing, swallowing, and speaking. The TMJs also control the lower jaw, known as the mandible. Connected to the TMJs are muscles and ligaments as well as a disc between the ball and socket of each TMJ. This disc cushions allow the jaw to open wide, rotate, and glide. Problems within this complex system can result in having a painful TMJ disorder.
Symptoms of TMJ disorder include:
- Muscle tenderness
- Popping or clicking when opening the mouth, chewing, or speaking
Possible causes of TMJ include:
- Jaw and tooth misalignment
- Teeth grinding
- Jaw clenching
Minor TMJ issues can often be treated by:
- Eating soft foods
- Using heat packs for pain
- Relaxation techniques such as biofeedback or meditation
- Avoiding biting your nails or chewing gum
Depending on your situation, our orthodontists may also recommend exercises that will strengthen the jaw muscles. Sometimes medications may help, including muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, or anti-anxiety medications. Night guards or bite plates are also sometimes prescribed by our orthodontists if teeth grinding is the cause of your TMJ issue.
In severe cases, a more aggressive TMJ treatment may be needed. Orthodontic treatment can be used to help with long-term function and stability. Some cases may benefit from adjusting or reshaping teeth to fix an uneven bite. Through splint therapy, we create oral TMJ orthotics that relieve the pain from overly compressed TM joints. Even if you have tried orthotic therapy before with no success, trying this treatment with an orthodontist may be successful. Often, patients will benefit from TMJ treatment followed by orthodontics in order to create a permanent solution for TMJ problems. This will allow patients to move from the use of a daily orthotic.