Just in front of our ears are the joints that work like hinges to open and close our lower jaw. Most people refer to them as the “jaw joints”, but we call them the Temporomandibular joint or TMJs. (Temporo meaning in the vicinity of our temples, mandibular meaning the lower jaw or mandible).
Problems or damage to these joints can come about for several reasons:
- A “bad bite”, teeth that do not fit together properly, throwing off the alignment of the jaw joints.
- Injury or accidents that have caused damage inside the joint.
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth (teeth are designed to chew food but not to chew each other) that had damaged or inflamed the joints.
TMJ problems (we call this TMD) can cause a wide range of symptoms that often are confused or misdiagnosed as other problems.
Some of the possible symptoms of TMD are:
- Clicking or grating sound in the joint
- Headaches or neck aches
- Limited ability to open the mouth very wide
- Painful opening
- Ringing in the ear
- Locking when opening or closing
- Sore or tender teeth
- Wearing down of the teeth
- Multiple teeth having broken areas or lost fillings
As you can see many problems associated with the teeth and jaws could be jaw joint problems in disguise.
How could a dentist handle the situation of someone who did have TMD? The first step would be a thorough examination and information gathering visit. After the problem has been sorted out, the treatment plan would depend on what is needed.
If someone was clenching or grinding, a small, essentially invisible protective guard could be made to cushion the teeth.
If the bite is extremely off, sometimes tooth alignment is needed (perhaps orthodontics).
Muscle relaxation techniques, gentle adjusting of the bite, physical therapy, are some of the possible treatment options.
If you are concerned or feel you may have jaw joint problems, call us for an evaluation and information. Dr Marx has training that deals with these many problems that lead to TMJ pain. Again he will not need to refer you for treatment elsewhere, which make it easier for you to meet all your dental concerns at our office in Kansas City and Gladstone. We have helped many people lead more comfortable lives by helping them correct their bites and their jaw joints.