So What is this “TMJ” Temporomandibular Joint Disorder Thing?
As anyone looking into the topic probably notices, understanding TMJ is very convoluted. Even the name is disputed. Is it properly called TMD or TMJ? At Aesthetic Smile Reconstruction, we try to make the process simple to understand. Although there are many different philosophies and opinions, our practice takes a comprehensive approach which encompasses all the leading philosophies and treatments.
Symptoms of TMJ disorder can vary drastically. The most common symptoms are muscle fatigue and soreness when chewing, headaches, clicking and popping of the jaw, clenching and grinding of the teeth, locking of the jaw, and even ear pain or ringing of the ears. It sounds crazy right? The jaw can affect so many parts of the head and neck? It sure can. If these seemingly unrelated problems have been frustrating you for a long period of time, it might be time to see a TMJ specialist to see if your symptoms are related to your jaw function.
Symptoms usually are created by a lack of harmony between the patient’s bite, muscles, and/or temporal mandibular joint. For example, if the position of the teeth puts strain on the temporal mandibular joint or the muscles around it, over time the strain causes pain.
It may sound overwhelming, but it really isn’t as complicated as it may seem. It is best to understand TMD as a continuum based on two criteria. The first is the degree a patient is out of TMJ harmony. The second criteria is how long have the symptoms been left untreated. These two criteria will dictate the treatment needed and will also dictate the amount of improvement that is reasonably achievable.
The alignment of how the top and bottom jaw come together can create tension on the muscles and joints of the jaw. Orthodontics like clear aligners can allow for a more harmonious position to remove the tension.
A customized orthotic appliance repositions the jaw into a more stable position. Just like a cast for a broken bone, the stable position allows the muscles and joints of the jaw to heal.
The teeth are designed to fit together in a particular balanced way. In many cases the teeth hit harder in some spots than others. This uneven force can be like trying to run in a stilleto high heal. The muscles feel strained by the instability. By balancing the teeth with a device called a T-scan, symptoms can improve.
The muscles play a huge rule in the pain of TMJ disorder. When the muscles are overly powerful, the joints are overloaded with force. Botox can help assist the muscles to relax and reduce load on the entire TMJ complex.