More and more science is recognising the link between your mouth, jaw and teeth and the health of the rest of your body. My comprehensive care means I assess not only your dental needs but also how your whole body is being affected.
You see all parts of the body are interrelated and treatment for your teeth just cannot be considered in isolation. The jawbone holds the lower teeth in place and your temporomandibular joint (also referred to as your TMJ) is the joint just in front of each ear, where your jaw bone connects to your skull. Problems with the TMJ and the muscles that control jaw movement are known as temporomandibular disorders or TMJ disorders.
What are the symptoms of TMJ disorders?
Dull, aching pain, which varies in strength from mild to severe, is the most common symptom associated with TMJ disorders. The pain is usually felt in the jaw, but can also be felt in the surrounding areas, including the face, ear, and even the teeth. The pain may also radiate to the neck or shoulders, and is usually made worse by chewing and moving your jaw.
Other signs and symptoms associated with TMJ disorders include:
- difficulty eating (especially chewy or hard foods);
- jaw tenderness;
- jaw clicking, or popping, when you open and close your mouth and chew;
- a grating sensation when chewing;
- an uncomfortable or uneven bite; and
- jaw locking (an inability to open or close the mouth completely).
- Tingling fingers
TMJ disorders can be temporary or chronic (ongoing), but only a small proportion of people develop significant, long-term problems. Women tend to be affected by TMJ disorders more often than men.
What causes this condition?
TMJ disorders are generally caused by a combination of problems with the joint and stress on its surrounding structures. Some of the causes of joint problems include arthritis, injury, and dislocation of the joint, which can be due to an improperly-aligned bite or joint hyper-mobility (looseness of the jaw). Jaw clenching and teeth grinding (also known as bruxism) can put significant stress on the jaw muscles.
People who suffer from chronic stress and anxiety, or sleep apnoea, sometimes clench their teeth during the day and grind their teeth while asleep, resulting in muscle pain and tightness as well as damage to the teeth. Poor posture (e.g. holding the head forward while looking at your computer screen) can also strain the muscles of the jaw, face and neck.
How can I help with TMJ?
When you see me I will assess your teeth and your bite for any problems. I may also suggest wearing a plastic biteplate or orthotic to help align your upper and lower jaw bones. If you have been grinding your teeth at night, you may need to wear a special mouthguard (also known as a mouth splint or night guard appliance) while you sleep. By helping prevent jaw clenching and teeth grinding, a mouthguard can ease the tension in your jaw muscles.
Splints can also be worn during the day to relax your jaw muscles and prevent damage to your teeth from grinding. It means that often I fix more than your teeth or smile. Sometimes neck, shoulder pain, headache and migraine are symptoms of problems in your mouth. Because I understand the harmony between your teeth and muscle and posture I can often reduce or eliminate that pain totally.