TMD Treatment – Bite Therapy
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are located at the sides of the face, near the ears. This is where your jaw hinges to the rest of your skull, making contact with the bones in your temples. These joints allow the jaw to move when you open your mouth. Problems related to these joints are called temporomandibular disorders (TMD).
What are the causes of TMD?
TMD affects the joints themselves as well the as the muscles and nerves that are connected to the TMJ. TMD is characterized by strain on the muscles and nerves that are involved in the movements of the TMJ. One of the most common causes why pain is experienced in the area is the misalignment of the TMJs.
It is quite unclear as to why people develop TMD. However, a few factors are believed to contribute to its development. For example, injury to the jaw, the TMJ itself or the neck and head can cause the jaws to pop out of their normal position. Bruxism, the constant grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw usually at night, is also cited as a contributing factor to the disorder although not all people who grind their teeth suffer from TMD. Arthritis can also develop on the TMJ and stress can also cause tightening of the muscles in the jaw.
How do I know if I am suffering from TMD?
Pain in the jaw area that can lead to pain in other parts of the face, the neck, shoulders and ear areas, lockjaw, difficulty in opening the mouth, chewing or eating, clicking or popping sounds whenever the jaw moves may be indicators that a person is suffering from TMD. These symptoms are quite similar to other conditions. For example, gum disease, a decayed tooth and sinus problems also cause pain to manifest in the jaw area.
A dentist will be the one to make the diagnosis upon examination. During the examination, the dentist will observe how the jaw closes, its alignment and also take note of the movement of the muscles in the area. A series of tests like x-rays, MRI and CT scans may be required by the dentist to conclude if the patient is indeed suffering from TMD.
How is TMD treated?
Because a variety of conditions can lead to TMD, the treatment options are also diverse. Knowing the exact cause that is causing the TMD is the first step in successfully treating it.
If the TMD is caused by the constant clenching of the jaw due to stress, muscle relaxants and medicine for pain and swelling may be prescribed. The symptoms and pain will also be relieved by pain medication. However, if the stress is due to severe anxiety or depression, a consultation with a psychiatrist may be needed and anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs may be prescribed. If the TMD is brought on by bruxism, a night guard or splint may be the answer. They are mouthpieces that shield the teeth when you grind them or clench your jaw. If the problem is brought on by problems with your bite or teeth, dental work like crowns, bridges or braces should be done to correct your bite.
If these simple solutions do not work, your dentist may recommend more aggressive measures. Examples of these aggressive treatments are injections, ultrasound, laser, radio wave and nerve stimulation therapies to relax the muscles. Surgery may be the only relief for extreme cases.