According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, more than 10 million Americans are affected by TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder. This disorder can cause a variety of problems, ranging from migraines to severe jaw pain. The temporomandibular joint is important for basic human functions such as chewing, biting, and speaking.
The big problem with TMJ disorder is that its symptoms are similar to other health problems. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, TMJ symptoms will continue to get worse. Inflammation of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles won’t just cause discomfort, it can also lead to teeth grinding or clenching.
To protect your smile and quality of life, symptoms of TMJ disorder should be treated as soon as possible. In observance of National TMJ Awareness Month, we at the Dentistry of Nashville shed light on this common disorder.
TMJ Disorder Risk Factors and Symptoms
TMJ disorder is the dysfunction of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. This is an intricate area of the body comprised of different joints, discs, ligaments, and muscles. There are two joints located in the front of each ear that connect the lower jaw bone to the upper jaw bone.
Before deciding on the best treatment option, you should identify the possible cause of your TMJ. Common causes include:
- Trauma (jaw dislocation)
- Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
- Improper bite
Severe TMJ disorder is a common complaint of women during their childbearing years. Researchers suggest that female sex hormones play a role in the development of TMJ. The TMJ Association reports that the “ratio of women to men increases with the severity of symptoms, approaching nine women for every one man with major limitations in jaw movements and chronic, unrelenting pain.”
Additionally, musicians and singers are highly susceptible to TMJ disorder because of sustained jaw positions and stretching required to perform. Those who habitually chew gum are more likely to develop TMJ issues as well.
Most people associate TMJ with lockjaw but truthfully,this is just one of many symptoms. Some of the other common symptoms of TMJ include:
- A clicking or popping sound with jaw movement
- Pain while opening or closing the mouth
- Pressure behind the eyes
- Sore/Tender jaw muscles
- A change in the way the top and bottom teeth fit together
- Jaw feels like it “locks out” for a moment
- Swelling of the face
Bruxism and TMJ
Approximately 12% of the US population is affected by TMJ disorder at any given time. This equals out to around 35 million people in the United States. Treating these symptoms in a timely manner is imperative because it can have devastating effects on your oral health. TMJ disorder is closely associated with bruxism, which is another common dental health problem that can leave patients susceptible to tooth fractures and decay.
Bruxism can cause TMJ and vice versa; TMJ is known to cause bruxism in many patients.
Bruxism puts an exorbitant amount of pressure on the teeth. While the teeth are designed to withstand daily wear and tear from biting and chewing, chronic grinding or clenching will eventually wear down the protective enamel layer of the tooth.
The tooth enamel protects the inner layers of the tooth, including the dentin and the tooth pulp where the blood vessels and nerves are located. When the enamel is worn down, patients are more susceptible to problems such as tooth decay and tooth sensitivity.
Increased tooth sensitivity occurs as the dentin wears down to the tubules, which are filled with tiny nerve endings. When the nerve endings are exposed to hot, cold, acidic, or sugary foods and beverages, patients will experience pain.
Other oral health consequences associated with TMJ and bruxism include:
- Damaged fillings or crowns
- Gum inflammation
- Dental fractures and chips
Treatment Options For TMJ
There are a variety of ways to treat TMJ or at least manage the symptoms. Some of your options include:
- Oral splints or mouth guards
- Pain medication and anti-inflammatories
- Physical therapy
- Relaxation techniques to reduce tension in the jaw
- Surgery for TMJ related to a structural jaw problem
Contact Dentistry of Nashville
Have you experienced damage to your teeth due to TMJ? Don’t wait to seek treatment! We offer a variety of services, including veneers, dental implants, dental crowns or bridges, and cosmetic dental treatment to help you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile.
To find out more about our dental services, contact our office today to schedule your appointment!