The Jaw Joint

The Jaw Joint and TMJ Disorders in Epsom Auckland

The jaw joint, also known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), plays a very important function in the human body. It allows us to eat, speak, and do all kinds of things with our mouths. If the jaw joint doesn’t function properly, our entire lifestyle can be affected. This will not only cause discomfort, but will also contribute to a multitude of other unwanted conditions.

The Temporomandibular Joint

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is where the lower jaw bone connects to the skull. It can be found right in front of the ears, in the mid-lower region of the face. As a joint, it allows smooth movement of the jaw while eating or talking. However, trauma, regular use, wisdom teeth, and a whole host of other impacting factors can damage the joint, muscles, and tendons, leading to TMJ Disorders (TMD).

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TMJ Disorders and Their Symptoms

TMJ disorders can be classified into different conditions, but many of them have the same symptoms. These include one or more of the following:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw area;
  • Pain around the ears;
  • Uncomfortable or painful chewing motion;
  • Unexplainable pain in the face;
  • Clicking or locking of the TMJ;
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth.

Other symptoms may be present, depending on the specific TMJ disorder you are suffering.

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Causes of TMJ Disorders

You may suffer from TMD due to any of the following reasons:

  1. Trauma – Whiplash, any head injury, or blow to the jaw can result in damage to the skull or jaws.
  2. Stress – Teeth grinding or clenching is a common side effect of stress, and this can be a cause for TMD. Even without teeth grinding, some patients still experience TMJ problems due to fatigue.
  3. Oral Habits – Parafunctional habits like biting nails, chewing ice, grinding teeth, sucking the thumb, or resting the chin on the hands can contribute to TMJ disorders.
  4. Dental Treatments – Some treatment methods require opening the jaw for extended periods of time. In such cases, prior to treatment, inform the attending dental staff about your jaw problem so that we can address it and give you some breaks throughout treatment. This will allow you to rest your jaw and move it around before continuing the procedure.
  5. Teeth Problems – Multiple missing teeth can reduce the force of biting, concentrating the force only on the present teeth. This can pass the force onto the jaw and cause discomfort. Unhealthy or damaged teeth can also contribute to TMJ disorder.
  6. Intubation – If you were hospitalized and a tube was inserted in your throat, the tube may apply too much force on your jaw and cause pain and discomfort.
  7. Malocclusion – A bad bite, especially if the upper front teeth are pushing the lower teeth backwards, can stress the jaw joint.
  8. Overworked Jaw – Chewing gum too frequently can strain the jaw and cause pain. If you work in an industry or engage in activities where your head and neck is often shaking, such as using a jackhammer, you also may experience TMJ disorders.
  9. Hypermobility – Teens, particularly girls, tend to be hypermobile because of the change in hormones, making the jaws more movable and prone to injury and dislocation.
  10. Arthritis – Arthritis can affect any joint, including the jaw joint.

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Treatment for TMJ Disorders

  1. Splint – A bite splint or nightguard is used to support, balance and align the jaw with the skull.
  2. Physiotherapy – Massages and ultrasound can be used to physically relieve TMJ pain and discomfort.
  3. Anaesthesia or Prolotherapy – Joint and muscle injections can help reduce the pain associated with TMJ disorders.
  4. Electromodality – This part of physiotherapy is an electronic procedure where equipment is used to stimulate muscles.
  5. Orthodontics – If alignment of the teeth is the problem, orthodontic braces can be used to fix it.
  6. Restorative Dentistry – In cases when a missing tooth or unevenly shaped teeth are causing TMJ disorders, restoration of those teeth can help relieve the pain.
  7. Craniosacral Therapy – This therapeutic method is focused on allowing better circulation of spinal fluids to promote smoother joint movement.

How to Schedule an Appointment

If you have any symptoms of TMJ disorder and would like to receive treatment, call Alpers Dental in Epsom, AU at (09) 524-5056 so we can schedule an appointment for you. Our dentists will perform all the necessary tests to ensure that your TMJ disorder is treated properly and in a timely manner.

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The Jaw Joint January 5, 2015