What Is TMJ?
Dr. Boisson has been serving the Peace Country since 1992. Peace Country, despite its name, isn’t immune to the stressors of daily life. Certainly, our family dentistry practice in Grande Prairie has noticed an uptick in TMJ complaints.
And if you’re feeling extra tense these days, it’s not just you! During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, dentists across Canada were seeing an increase in bruxism or unconscious tooth grinding.
At Boisson Dental, physiologic dentistry is our specialty, with a 30-year history grounded in general dentistry. Indeed, we have to agree with our colleagues across the country that TMJ symptoms have increased.
If you’re not sure what TMJ is, read on to learn the definition, symptoms, and treatments for this increasingly common issue.
What Is TMJ?
Also known as TMJ dysfunction, what exactly is TMJ? The Temporomandibular (tem-puh-roe-man-DIB-u-lur) Joint connects your jawbone to your skull. So it is common for this hard-working joint to experience issues. Some patients will feel pain on one or both sides of the TMJ, which can worsen with chewing and movement.
TMJ vs TMD, what’s the difference?
TMJ stands for ‘temporomandibular joint’ and TMD refers to disorders of this joint. However, the terms are used interchangeably, which can cause some confusion.
The TMJ can cause you pain when the conjoining disks wear down. Physiologic dentistry, a central focus of our practice at Boisson Dental Group, is concerned with this specific issue.
The bones and nerves of your face connect to other parts of the face and body. A seemingly localized problem like TMJ, therefore, has widespread effects.
TMD refers to these effects, a variety of disorders involving the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints, and nerves related to chronic facial pain.
What are the Symptoms of TMJ?
Do you suffer from persistent headaches? Nothing cuts your productivity and joy like a nagging headache. While headaches are often accurately attributed to stress and illness, there is another common cause that you may not know about.
Headaches are a common symptom of TMJ dysfunction. The Temporomandibular Joint is at the centre of so much activity, from talking to eating. When one or both of these joints is misaligned, many issues can occur, including headaches.
Other symptoms of TMJ:
- Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth
- Jaw clicking or popping
- Facial and/or jaw joint pain
- Back, neck, and/or cervical pain
- Problems with proper posture
- “Locked Jaw”
- Ear pain and/or hearing loss
- Inability to open wide or move from side to side comfortably
How Does Physiologic Dentistry Treat TMJ?
What exactly is physiologic dentistry? The central operating belief of physiologic dentistry is that 90% of pain originates in muscle. From that postulate, it follows that making muscles comfortable will reduce pain.
This approach provides a rich and comprehensive platform for general and family dentistry practices. Physiologic dentistry has the benefit of addressing issues like TMJ at its source, often preventing the need for expensive and invasive procedures.
At Boisson Family Dental, make use of cutting-edge dental technology and appliances to help ease the tension experienced by the TMJ. In the office, we use ultra-low frequency (ULF) transcutaneous electro-neural stimulation (TENS) therapy to relax jaw and neck muscles. An EMG or myomonitor can gauge these muscles’ activity levels. We use this to determine what your jaw’s resting position is.
TMJ and Rest Position
What does rest position mean and how does it relate to TMJ? Observing the way muscles are working to create pain or discomfort also requires analyzing how they are aligned when they are at rest. Ideally, your TMJ is in a resting position whenever you aren’t eating, talking, or smiling.
And yet, the resting position of your jaw can be anything but restful! You might suffer from bruxism, where you unconsciously clench your jaw without realizing it. This can lead to headaches, jaw pain, and the wearing down of tooth enamel.
When we detect an improper resting position for a muscle group, we know this is an excellent place to start our inquiry. TMJ dysfunction is also often the result of a stressed resting position. An improperly aligned jaw can cause many other dental problems.
Fixed and Removable Orthotics for TMJ
Custom orthotics are an excellent treatment for TMJ as they help to reform a stressed resting position. Depending on the case, fixed or removable orthotics may be prescribed.
Both fixed and removable physiologic orthotics encourage the decompression of the TMJ. The fixed orthotic is permanently bonded to the teeth, while the removable orthotic can be taken out. The specifics of each patient’s case will dictate which, if either, is the most appropriate treatment.
Do I Need to See a Dentist About TMJ?
Since TMJ is so common, you may be wondering if you need to see a dentist about it. Generally, if you aren’t experiencing pain or limited movement of your jaw, you probably don’t need treatment.
However, if your jaw is persistently painful and tender, or can’t fully open or close, it’s time to see your dentist.
Learn more about our approach to treating TMJ by reading our page on physiologic or neuromuscular dentistry.
If you’re in Grande Prairie and are ready to tackle TMJ, give us a call and schedule a consultation. We have solutions!