You should never underestimate the benefits of any orthodontic work as it doesn’t only help with the immediate problem at hand, nor does it just give you a better smile. Any kind of work will help prevent future problems from developing and will also make it easier to spot certain developing situations, thanks to the records your dental doctor will have of you. TMJ disorder is a type of issue that can benefit from orthodontic work that doesn’t seem to relate directly.
What Is TMJ?
Temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the joints that connect your jawbone to your skull. Thanks to them, we can talk, eat, and move our jaws as we wish. A disk located in the joint between the skull and the lower jaw is what allows us to have smooth movement. As with most things in our body, you have two identical joints on each side of your head, they are right next to your ear canal.
What Is TMD?
TMD stands for Temporomandibular joint disorder. Although the term is sometimes used interchangeably with TMJ it’s important to remember that they are not the same as TMD refers to a disorder of the TMJ. As stated by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, TMD involves various conditions that affect the TMJ and the surrounding area’s functionality. The effects of TMD if not taken care of can range from pain in the neck and face muscles to migraines and hearing loss.
TMD has three classes that they fall into. The first class involves any problem associated with the joints and the disc themselves. The second class is for disorders that affect the muscles used for chewing and talking. The final class refers to any headache related to TMD. Anyone suffering from TMD can have a mix of disorders that fall into one or many classes.
Although there’s usually no way to pinpoint an exact cause for TMJ disorder a few of the possible causes are damage to the joint itself or the surrounding muscles (by either wear or trauma), grinding your teeth, arthritis, genes, and even stress. In the same manner, TMD affects more women than men without there being any apparent reason.
Symptoms of TMD
TMJ disorders can appear and go away on their own, or they can stay and cause severe discomfort for many years. Therefore, whenever you spot a TMD symptom that lasts for more than a few days, consider contacting your Portland ortho as soon as possible to get a check-up and a treatment plan if needed. As long as they aren’t painful, some clicking sounds in the joint are normal.
A few of the TMD symptoms are the limited movement of jaws, getting them stuck in a certain position, facial or neck pain, tinnitus, hearing loss, pain in the joint area itself, swelling, headaches, etc. As previously stated, these symptoms can be temporary, and they can be caused by something completely different.
To be certain of the cause, your dentist will make a few physical tests and will most likely take x-rays, an MRI, or even a computer tomography scan. Once your dentist discards any other possible causes for your pain and diagnoses you with TMD, they may refer you to a more specialized surgeon.
How to Treat TMD?
There is a variety of possible treatments for TMD, they range from simple exercises you can do by yourself at home, to much more intrusive treatments like open surgery. Don’t be afraid of the possibility of surgery as it is can be very effective on some patients and it’s only used as a last resort.
At first, your dental doctor will try to address your TMD with conservative treatment. Over-the-counter medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen can be a great help in relieving muscle pain; if needed, your surgeon or orthodontist could prescribe you something stronger.
Splints and night guards avoid clenching and grinding your teeth which in turn reduces the stress and wear on the TMJ. Learning relaxation techniques, eating soft foods, avoiding extreme movements like yawning or chewing, and keeping your teeth apart can also help reduce tension.
If the previous methods don’t seem to have an effect, your dental doctor may recommend more invasive treatment. Some dental work like braces or dental crowns helps reduce grinding. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is an electrical therapy aimed at relaxing your TMJ and face muscles.
Radio wave therapy uses, as the name implies, radio waves to increase the blood flow in the area, thus relieving pain. In more severe situations, doctors inject anesthesia directly into the facial muscles to provide some relief.
As a last result, surgery is an option. There are 3 types of surgery that exist; yours will depend on your condition. Dental doctors perform arthrocentesis if the patient has no previous records of TMJ but has their jaws locked. For arthroscopy, doctors use a special tool that has a camera and light on it, allowing the surgeon to see inside the body. Finally, open joint surgery, though very effective at times, is more invasive, requires more time to heal, and has a greater chance of nerve injury.