If your jaw is often painful, it locks or clicks when you open your mouth or you have frequent headaches, neckaches or earaches, you might have TMJ dysfunction (TMJD) [1].

Your TMJ (temporomandibular joints) are the two joints that connect your lower jaw to your upper jaw. If these joints are damaged or put under strain, you may feel pain in and around your jaw, especially when you use your jaw to chew, talk or yawn.

TMJ disorders are quite common, affecting up to 30 percent of the population, but they're still more mysterious than other orofacial problems. Here are three facts you might not know about TMJD.

elderly man holding side of head in pain

1. There's No Single Cause

If you have an oral health problem like a cavity or bleeding gums, it's obvious to your dentist what the cause is. Unfortunately, TMJ problems aren't that straightforward.

TMJD usually involves the jaw joints being misaligned or damaged, but this can happen for many reasons. Some of the most common are:

  • dislocation, injury or trauma to your jaw
  • a misaligned bite leading to uneven pressure in your mouth
  • osteoarthritis
  • genetics
  • stress
  • teeth grinding or jaw clenching (bruxism).

Sometimes TMJ dysfunction happens for a combination of reasons. For example, if you grind your teeth when you feel stressed, this can cause your teeth to wear unevenly. It's not always possible to know the primary cause of TMJ problem, which is why...

2. There's No Single Treatment

Pinpointing the cause of your TMJ disorder is vital for getting successful treatment. Since finding the cause can be tricky, treatment planning isn't any easier. What's more, there's no consensus on whether certain treatments are effective in all cases.

TMJD is sometimes only temporary, and its symptoms may be managed with pain relief medication. If your TMJD may be caused by stress, trying to avoid stressful situations or practising meditation could help take the strain off your jaw. Muscle relaxant treatment administered by your dentist may also be an option. It’s best to discuss the suitable treatment options with your dentist.

If there's found to be a physical problem with your jaw joints or your bite, this may require treatment by a dentist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Dental treatments include:

For more severe TMJ dysfunction, you may need oral surgery.

3. Dentists may diagnose TMJD

Even though the jaw joints aren't usually covered by dentistry, your dentist may be more qualified than other medical practitioners to diagnose and treat TMJD. This is because there's no widely accepted and standardised test to identify TMJ disorders [2], and your dentist may be more familiar with the underlying cause if it's related to an oral health problem.

If you have TMJD symptoms such as toothache or jaw pain, your dentist will examine your mouth to check whether your teeth are misaligned, unevenly worn or show evidence of grinding. They can use this information to diagnose likely TMJD, rule out an oral health-related cause or diagnose a different condition with similar symptoms.

If you do have a TMJ disorder, your dentist may work together with your physician and other health and wellness professionals to cover all the bases and develop a holistic treatment plan.

Talk to a dentist in Brisbane CBD

If you think you might have TMD or another oral health issue, make an appointment at Face Value Dental in Brisbane CBD. Our team is experienced in diagnosing and treating TMJ disorders, and we'll work with you to develop the most suitable treatment plan.

Call us today on (07) 3221 0677 or contact us online.

References

1 Temporomandibular Joint Disorders, 2018, Bupa Dental, https://www.bupadental.com.au/temporomandibular-joint-disorders

2 TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disoders, 2018, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research,  https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/tmj/more-info#top