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TM Joint Disorders





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TM Joint Disorders


The Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is in simple words the jaw-joint, which plays a very important role in opening and closing of the mouth. TMJ disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw-joint. These disorders exhibit as various sysmptoms like pain or clicking sounds. Early detection and treatment are important, as some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditons. No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely, and treatment takes time to be effective.

You may be having a TMJ disorder if:-

  • You have a habit of clenching or grinding your teeth

  • You have frequent headaches or neck-aches, and the pain gets worse when you clench your teeth

  • Your jaw clicks, pops, grates, catches or locks when you open your mouth

  • You find it difficult to open your mouth, eat or yawn

  • You have ever injured your jaws, neck or head

  • You have other joint-related problems, such as arthritis

  • Your teeth no longer touch in their correct positions when you bite

  • Your teeth meet differently from time to time

Your TM joints are where your upper jaw and lower jaw meet just in front of the ears. Like the gears of a car, the joints are moving parts that allow the lower jaw to move. This lets you open and close your mouth for talking, biting and chewing. The joints are a complex, made of muscles and jaw-bones. Each part plays a role in keeping your TMJs working smoothly. When the muscles are relaxed and balanced and both jaw joints open and close comfortably, you are able to talk, chew or yawn with no pain. Because your muscles and joints work together, a problem with either one can lead to uncomfortable results such as stiffness, headaches, pain, bite problems, clicking sounds or lock jaw.

Once a TMJ disorder is diagnosed, your dentist will do a complete dental and medical evaluation. This evaluation includes a physical examination of your muscles and joints, imaging tests like tomographic and trans-cranial x-rays and MRI. Dental casts are made, which help determine whether your teeth are coming together correctly and how your bite may be affected by your joint and surrounding muscles. The above evaluation helps to pinpoint the causes of your TMJ disorder. It also helps in providing information about your overall health and what the best treatment might be for you.

Treatment Options

There are many treatment options that will improve the harmony and function of your jaw, but in large part relief hinges on you. The various options available are:

  • Self care: includes resting your jaw. Rest relaxes your jaw muscles and takes the pressure off your joint. Practising good posture, eating soft foods and reducing stress will also relax tense muscles and help give your jaw a break. Applying ice and heat alternately, and exercising your jaw also helps to relieve symptoms.

  • Medications: If your pain is severe and the self-care measures do not help, your doctor will prescribe an anti-inflammatory to help reduce pain and swelling, or a muscle relaxant.

  • Stress Management: Stress, teeth clenching and poor posture cause your muscles to tighten up. This tightening pulls your upper and lower jaws closer together, putting pressure on TMJ and sometimes wearing down your teeth. Managing daily stress is one of the best ways to restore harmony between your muscles and joints.

  • Physical Therapy: A variety of physiotherapy techniques such as jaw exercises, postural training and mobilization help you regain the harmony of your jaw joints and muscles. Physical therapy is often used when your disk, ligaments or other joint tissues are injured. It promotes healing and reduces pain and swelling. It also aids muscle relaxation and increases your jaw's range of motion.

  • Occlusal Splint: is a clear plastic appliance that fits over your top or bottom teeth and maybe recommended by your doctor to establish harmony between your muscles and joints. It works by keeping your upper and lower teeth slightly apart, thus relaxing the muscles and reducing the attendant pain. A splint can also change jaw posture, enough to stablize some bite problems and reduce pressure in your joints. It may not be easy to get used to wearing and caring for your splint, but it is an important treatment that may last for 3 months or more.

  • Bite Correction: If your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit together, you may need treatment to correct your bite, although this is seldom necessary. Bite problems may be corrected either by orthodontic wiring, or by placing a crown or filling onto your teeth.

  • Ultrasound: Painless sound waves reduce pain and swelling in your joints and muscles, and improve circulation.

  • Electrical Stimulation: An electrical impulse sent through your skin relaxes muscles, aids circulation and relieves pain.

  • Surgery: can help restore your jaw joint and eliminate the pain and other symptoms of TMJ disorders. It is rarely needed, except in very severe cases, that is if the joint has become so badly damaged that it cannot be corrected by other means.

You may need a combination of treatments, depending on the severity of your case as decided by your dentist. From biting and talking to chewing and yawning, your TM joints always come into play. So when something goes wrong with your jaw joints, it can cause you much discomfort. But with the right diagnosis and treatment, most people do find relief from the pain and other symptoms of a TMJ disorder, and you can too !

Do remember that a healthy stressfree lifestyle will go a long way towards preventing most of these problems !!!


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