The jaw joint is also known as the TMJ, or the temperomandibular joint. TMJ disorders can cause pain in the jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement. The symptoms vary in nature, severity and cause. Some more common symptoms include migraine or tension headaches, neck and shoulder aches and pain in the TMJ area.
Healthy joints have a thin cushion of cartilage called a disc which is normally positioned between the top and bottom jaws. When healthy, this disc provides cushion between the bones of the upper and lower jaws. When unhealthy, this disc can be displaced or dislocated. The jaw joint is a complex joint and is required to work in a coordinated fashion. Unlike knees, elbows or shoulders; the jaw joints are required to work in harmony and unison.
Symptoms which are more severe and often indicative of a longer standing problem are:
- vertigo (dizziness)
- tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- sharp pain in one or both ears
- a feeling of fullness in the ears
- hearing loss
- light sensitivity
- low back pains
- poor posture
More of the commonly reported jaw joint symptoms may include:
- popping, clicking, or a grinding sound in the TMJ upon opening
- tenderness or pain in the joint
- muscle aches in the head, face or neck area
- difficulty in chewing
- jaw muscle fatigue after chewing or talking
- limited ability to open or close the jaw
- clenching or grinding of the teeth
- sensitivity of the teeth
- excessive tooth damage and or wear
- a deviation of the jaw upon opening and or closing
Improper occlusion or bite can follow a traumatic injury to the jaw, extraction of the teeth, extensive dental treatment being done or prolonged opening. If your bite changes and becomes unstable, this can lead to clenching, grinding and ultimately painful muscles of the face and jaw joint.
Ringing of the ears (tinnitus), a sense of fullness in the ears, dizziness (vertigo), and hearing loss have been common signs or symptoms involved in jaw dislocation. Decompression of the joint and stabilization of the bite has often relieved these symptoms, which are exacerbated in the ears. Studies show that up to 80% of TMD cases result in the following ear-associated symptoms: excessive earwax, dizziness, hearing loss, sounds of fullness in the ears, or ringing of the ears. Most TMJ patients who complain of ear-related symptoms often find relief in therapeutic treatment with dental appliances.
The jaw joint is a complex joint and is required to work in a coordinated fashion. Unlike knees, elbows or shoulders, the jaw joints are required to work in harmony and unison. Healthy joints have a thin cushion of cartilage called a disc, which is normally positioned between the top and bottom jaws. When healthy, this disc provides cushion between the bones of the upper and lower jaws. When unhealthy, this disc can be displaced or dislocated.
Prolonged clenching and grinding can lead to a dysfunction of the coordinated muscles of the joint and the disc. This can lead to dislocation of the disk and patients can hear the clicking or popping in their joints. An “out of place” disk can then compress the small blood vessels and nerves in the back of the joint, causing pain. Eventually, this friction caused by a displaced or dislocated disk can lead to bone on bone contact in the joint. In cases where this happens, arthritis of the joint is often the result.
TREATING TMJ SYMPTOMS
The treatment objective is to relieve pain by decompressing the jaw joint. Our dentists do this by allowing optimum functional movement of the jaw, and establishing appropriate tooth-to-tooth relationships in order to produce stability in the TMJ joint. With a stable bite, it is found that muscle pain, tension, headaches and neck pain are improved. With the jaw joint being repositioned into the appropriate position, symptoms related to the ears often subside. At Dentistry for Health, we have very highly trained dental professionals with specialized backgrounds in neuromuscular dental treatment. A proper diagnosis of your symptoms is essential to successful treatment.
Diagnosis of TMJ dysfunction is made following a comprehensive and thorough an airway assessment and bite evaluation. Further information can be gained by using a cone beam CT scan, which can allow the doctor to view the joint and joint space in a three-dimensional image. Further diagnostic tests, such as jaw tracking analysis and joint vibration analysis to listen for jaw sounds, are other valuable tests used in the assessment of the joint.
Following a diagnostic evaluation, a customized treatment plan can be developed in order to maximize therapeutics.
Jaw repositioning usually requires oral appliance therapy, which can be used from 3-12 months to attain maximum improvement. There are numerous custom fitted devices available, and your dentist will decide which on is best for you.
Some examples of appliance treatment therapies are the ALF and Twin Block appliances. Other modes of treatment such as Botox therapeutic injections, trigger point injections, cold laser therapy, ultrasound, specific jaw, head, and neck exercises, and custom made orthotics (splints) can be some of the many options available in treating TMD pain.
ALF (ADVANCED LIGHTWIRE FUNCTIONAL) APPLIANCES
The ALF appliance is used to improve the bite and align teeth without braces or orthodontic treatment. This appliance is used to help restore cranial osteopathic balance through light orthopedic forces. The ALF uses principles of cranial osteopathy to address the alignment of the bones (orthopedic treatment). The ALF works by helping to maintain the normal cranial movements through the maxilla (upper jaw) where it is placed.
Biting forces that may be leading to inappropriate forces into the cranial complex can be redirected using manual cranial techniques and mandibular (lower jaw) appliances. These inappropriate forces from the muscles of mastication (facial muscles), along with imbalanced muscle activity of the neck can lead to cranial strains.
Cranial strains can lead to malocclusions (crooked teeth), facial asymmetries, and TMD (dysfunctional jaw joint). All of these conditions can in turn lead to imbalances that cause dysfunction and pain.
For more information on our TMJ treatment in Omaha, Nebraska, please contact Dentistry For Health at 402-932-0282 to schedule a consultation.