Constantly struggling with headaches, neck pain, earaches, jaw pain, or popping and clicking in your jaw? You could have undiagnosed TMJ disorder (TMD). The first step in treating TMJ effectively is pinpointing the cause of your joint discomfort.
Here are some of the most common underlying factors associated with clinical TMJ disorder.
Do you have crooked, crowded, or gapped teeth? Maybe your upper and lower jaw don’t line up well against one another? When malocclusion (misaligned teeth) is involved, it can directly impact the everyday movements of your TMJ. Each time you eat, your chewing patterns are thrown off as your jaw works to break down your food. Moving in an irregular motion hundreds of times day after day can begin to take a toll on your TMJ and surrounding tissues. Sometimes one of the best treatments for TMJ pain is to straighten your teeth with Invisalign or braces.
Similar to misaligned teeth, having missing teeth can also throw off the balance of your bite. If you’re chewing more on one side than the other, one TMJ will work harder than the joint on the opposite side. In turn, the teeth on that side of your mouth will also begin to wear down prematurely, creating an imbalance in your overall bite.
By replacing your missing teeth with something like a dental implant, fixed bridge, or removable partial denture, you can help maintain a more normal biting pattern throughout your smile. In turn, you’ll directly reduce the stress on the TMJ that’s being overworked.
When you’re focusing on something, feeling super stressed out, or life is just catching up and pulling you in every direction – it affects you physically. We tend to get tense, our blood pressure rises, and joints like our TMJ contract for what seems like no good reason. People with excessive amounts of stress tend to have tightened TMJ joints during the day or while they’re sleeping. All of the tightening can cause joint pain, headaches, migraines, and even start to wear down your teeth.
Although avoiding stressors and cutting back on them through lifestyle changes or meditation may not be totally within our power, we can sleep in a nightguard or wear a bite splint to at least reduce the strain to our TMJ.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a type of sleeping disorder that is related to the blockage of oral tissues at the upper airway. Things like your tongue, tonsils, soft palate, and airway all seal against one another, completely or partially restricting airflow. When your body is deprived of oxygen during sleep, your jaw instinctively clenches up. Believe it or not, your TMJ is also one of the strongest joints in your body, applying intense amounts of pressure on your teeth.
Undiagnosed sleeping disorder and ongoing clenching can ultimately lead to TMJ pain. If you have high blood pressure, a large neck circumference, flattened teeth, or are struggling with fatigue, be sure to talk to your medical provider about a sleep study.
Chronic teeth clenching and grinding is a condition that we call “bruxism.” Some of us do it out of habit when we’re focusing, driving, stressed, or life is just getting to us. When you’re not eating and your mouth is at rest, your lips should be together but your teeth should be slightly apart. Technically they shouldn’t be biting together. If they are, you might have a bruxism habit that you didn’t know about.
Make a conscious effort to relax your facial muscles and jaw. Again, you do want your lips touching but there should be about the width of a pencil between your teeth. If you’re able to “train” your way into a relaxed jaw, you can help break your bruxism habit. But if you’re bruxing while you sleep, be sure to talk to our Mesa dentist about getting a nightguard.
Joint Deterioration or Displacement
One of the less common causes of TMJ disorder is when there is physically something wrong with your joint, disc, or bone. We may need to take a panoramic X-ray and refer you to a specialist if this is a concern. Since some types of medications can affect your TMJ and jaw bone, please always be sure to bring us an updated list of any prescriptions that you’re taking.
TMJ Pain? Call Our Mesa Dentist
During your exam at Eastport Dental, Mesa dentist Dr. Huynh will evaluate the movement and range of motion of your TMJ. The best TMJ treatments are typically minimally invasive and non-surgical. We can provide you with the guidance you need to finally achieve practical pain relief. Contact us today to reserve an appointment.