If you are suffering with jaw pain, neck pain, headaches or migraines, we at Harley Street Dental Group can help by treating issues with the jaw joint. Ask us about treatment for TMJ Disorder today.
What is TMJ Disorder?
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, shortened to TMJ, is a condition in which the temporomandibular joint, is misaligned or overworked. As the TMJ is the main joint in the mouth TMJ disorder is a potentially very painful condition that can lead to pain around the neck and mouth, problems opening and closing the mouth, and headaches. Patients with TMJ disorder note that they sometimes suffer clicking whenever they yawn or chew. TMJ Disorder is often misdiagnosed as other medical conditions, or sometimes just as stress.
Causes of TMJ disorder include:
- An unbalanced bite: An overbite or underbite, or any other unbalanced or misaligned bite can be a main cause of TMJ Disorder. It could be one factor that leads to an unbalanced bite or an array of causes. Sucking your thumb, losing teeth or suffering allergies as a child can cause the shifting of teeth that can also cause a bad bite.
- Airway Problems: Issues with your airway can cause bite issues, TMJ pain and a jaw that has not developed properly. An unbalanced bite can cause the tongue to be in the incorrect place in your mouth and affect how air gets into your lungs. This can sometimes be caused by allergies in childhood, particularly if a child regularly has congestion. When this happens, the tongue will drop to allow air to pass over it, which can cause the tongue to be imbalanced and changes in how the upper jaw grows. This can cause a compromised airway and more difficulty breathing.
- Skull Deformation: During birth, the pressures and forces that are placed on a baby’s head can affect the shape and development of the skull and bones in the baby’s head and face. If the ligaments, muscles and bones are misaligned, this can affect the development of a person’s temporomandibular joint. It also can cause an unbalanced bite due to misaligned bones in the jaw and skull.
- Genetics: You inherit your jaw, teeth and facial structure from your parents, as well as how susceptible you are to allergies and congestion that can cause issues with your airway. A bad bite therefore can be caused by inheriting a small jaw, or inheriting teeth that are too big to fit your mouth properly.
- Trauma, Impact or Injury: An accident or intense physical impact that causes an injury to your jaw leads to damage to your joints and muscles. When the human body absorbs serious physical impact, it reverberates across the body and can affect the muscles and joints in your face, neck and head. This can cause TMJ disorder and the irritation, pain and discomfort caused by TMJ disorder.
- Unbalanced Dentistry: This can affect you even if you have undergone teeth straightening treatment, and invisible problems could affect your bite and even if you have perfectly straight teeth you can have a bite affected by TMJ disorder.
TMJ can cause a number of symptoms, including:
- Jaw and Tooth Pain: Your teeth can be worn faster if affected by TMJ disorder than if your jaw is properly aligned. This leads to uneven tooth wear, reduced or even lost jaw motion and receding gums. If you have any jaw or tooth pain the cause could be linked to TMJ disorder.
- Pain in the Face: A very common symptom of TMJ disorder is facial pain. TMJ disorder affects face, head and neck muscles, so if there is a pinched nerve that pain cause facial discomfort. A bad bite that causes the jaw and surrounding muscles to lie incorrectly can cause pain behind the eyes as well as around the face.
- Shoulder, Neck and Back pain: A misaligned bite caused by TMJ disorder can affect more than just your jaw. It can lead to ripples of issues that affect your back, neck and shoulder muscles. Your head can be tilted by tight, contracted and sore jaw muscles, causing overcompensation by the muscles in the back, neck and shoulder. This as a result causes wider upper body pain.
- Congestion and Pain in the Ear: A congested feeling in your ears, as well as dizziness, earache and ringing in your ears can also have causes that link to TMJ disorder. A misaligned jaw can cause your ear canal to become sensitive and that affects the nerves and muscles in your ears. This can lead to dizziness, pain in your ears, vertigo, sinus pain, a feeling of congestion in your ears, and even hearing reduction or loss.
- Tingling and Numbness in Arms, Hands and Fingers: A bite that isn’t aligned properly can cause spasms in the nerves and muscles throughout your face, jaw, neck and shoulders. This can also cause pinched nerves leading down your arms, which cause numbness and a tingling feeling in your fingers and hands. Nearly half of TMJ disorder sufferers have these symptoms although the numbness and tingling varies in intensity and whether there is pain present.
- Clicking, Popping and Locking of the Jaw: If the jaw is misaligned it can cause displacement in the TMJ disc and the closing of the join spaces in the jaw. This can cause clicking or popping sensations whenever you open or close your mouth. This can occur, when biting, eating or yawning. In some extreme circumstances, the TMJ disc displacement can cause lockjaw if you open your mouth wide and difficulties in closing your mouth, which will require the intervention of a doctor.
- Jaw and Teeth Grinding: Slight teeth grinding is not always a serious issue, however if can be serious if the grinding happens while you are asleep. This is TMJ Bruxism and can be very painful and quite serious, as it can result in worn down and even fractured teeth.
- Headaches: Headaches are caused when the TMJ is out of alignment, and are among the most common symptoms TMJ disorder patients report. When the TMJ is out of alignment, the side effect is muscle tension in your face, neck and shoulders, which can lead to tension headaches. As well as this, headaches can be caused by the build-up of blood pressure due to muscle strain. Because tension headaches can cause so much pain, they can often be misdiagnosed as migraines.
- Problems with Body Posture: The effects of TMJ can affect the entire posture of your body. If your bite is unbalanced, the length of your muscles and muscle activity is also unbalanced. If your muscles are contracted too much it causes a forward-leaning posture. This effect then ripples throughout the body, which can lead to the physical performance of the body decreasing, and increased tiredness and sluggish feelings through the days.
It can be difficult to avoid TMJ disorder, since a number of normal daily tasks can aggravate issues with the temporomandibular joint. If you are concerned that you are suffering from TMJ disorder, you should seek treatment as soon as possible, as waiting to see if it gets worse can lead to serious consequences:
- Dental Health Issues: Putting off TMJ Disorder treatment can lead to further dental health issues than those already described. Clenching your teeth and the teeth grinding that bruxism and TMJ causes can lead to fractured and worn down teeth. TMJ sufferers often favour using one side of their jaw, causing further asymmetrical muscle growth or swelling on one side of the face, affecting you appearance.
- Ear issues and Tinnitus: Because the jaw is located directly beneath both ears, TMJ disorder can lead to hearing issues such as tinnitus, damaged hearing and problems with the inner ear, which can cause further issues with dizziness and balance.
- Problems with the Jaw: Serious recurring jaw issues can come as a result of TMJ disorder, which includes lockjaw, which includes cases where the jaw cannot open completely or cannot close. This can require emergency treatment at its worst. I can also lead to a dislocated jaw due to the breakdown in jaw cartilage.
- Other Medical Issues: TMJ disorder can cause a number of other concerns due to the pain or increased difficulty in undertaking basic body functions, such as eating and biting. As a result, several patients will change their diet and eat soft foods and liquids, which can cause problems with their nutritional intake.
There are also issues with sleep as well caused by grinding teeth, airway issues and pain, which can lead to disturbed sleep or insomnia.
No one has to suffer TMJ disorder or its side effects, and at Harley Street Dental Group, we treat TMJ disorder through nonsurgical treatments that are not only safe but will permanently solve the problem.
Your TMJ Disorder treatment is taken care of by Dr David Frey, who has treated hundreds of TMJ disorder suffers and is an expert in the field of neuromuscular dentistry. Neuromuscular dentistry places particular focus on the position of the teeth, jaw and surrounding tissues.
A treatment package for TMJ disorder is made up of two distinct phases. The first, Phase 1, is focused on curing the immediate symptoms and reducing the pain and distress from a TMJ disorder sufferer. The second, Phase 2, is focused on permanent solutions to make sure that TMJ disorder and its symptoms do not reoccur, using orthodontic or restorative dentistry. Phase 2 can also include treatments like bite adjustments or a permanent splint therapy.
Here is how the TMJ treatment path progresses:
- Phase One: A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machine is used to relax your jaw muscles in order to find the most relaxed natural state and placement of your jaw. Using tiny electrical impulses, the TENS machine relaxes and de-programmes overworked jaw muscles. We also use other exercises to decompress the temporomandibular joint. After this, we then use Electromyography (EMG) data to prove your muscles are relaxed. The EMG uses a measurement system similar to the Richter scale. Once this is completed, we capture the position using a high quality mould and realign your bite into its optimum position.
After this you will be provided with a custom made orthotic device to wear, which rests on top of your existing teeth, looks completely nature and will provide quick relief from the effects of TMJ disorder, and the headaches, neck pain, back pain, ringing in the ears and other symptoms will soon disappear.
- Phase Two: Once you are comfortable with your new bite, Dr Frey can recommend additional cosmetic dental treatment depending on your individual needs to ensure that the results of your TMJ treatment stay. This can vary depending on your individual needs from no treatment at all, to orthodontics or a full mouth rehabilitation. Dr Frey will go through any options with you as part of your treatment.