There isn’t a single person out there who wasn’t glad to throw away the 2020 calendar and put up a new one for the New Year. Whether it was worrying about the virus, whether it was coping with working from home, whether it was the lack of being able to get away and travel, or anything else about COVID-19 and 2020, good riddance to it all.
But about that stress. It’s still here, at least for a few more months. In January’s first blog we touched on grinding your teeth at night, clinically known as bruxism. It can be a temporary thing, as it is for most of us this past year, or it can be a sign of a different event, namely misalignment of your jaw.
Temporomandibular joint disorder, TMJ for short. We also briefly mentioned TMJ in this month’s earlier blog, but that was mainly about bruxism. To finish this new month in this thankfully new year, let’s get into TMJ some more.
What is temporomandibular joint disorder?
You think of your bite as your teeth, but a balanced bite actually requires the temporomandibular joint, the teeth, and the masseter muscles to all work together in harmony. When all is properly aligned, chewing is quiet, and you don’t have pain in the jaw or lower face. But if one or more of the three components of your bite force the jaw into misalignment, you now have problems with every movement of the jaw. This can lead to pain across the jaw and face, and it can radiate down into the neck and shoulders. You are suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder.
At Gentle Dental, Dr. Strober is our resident expert with TMJ. He has completed a two-year intensive program in the study of TMJ disorders. This gives Gentle Dental experience with TMJ that most dental practices don’t have.
How does Dr. Strober treat TMD?
In January’s first blog, we talked about mouth guards and the use of Botox for treating bruxism and possible TMJ. Here’s let’s get into our full treatment repertoire.
In the majority of cases TMD is treated with non-surgical methods. Dr. Strober usually seeks to ensure the patient’s jaw is in proper alignment before deciding on the course of treatment. His treatment approaches can involve everything from using anti-inflammatory medications to giving the patient exercises to do at home to help relieve stress on the TMJ.
Here are some of the methods we use at Gentle Dental to treat TMD:
- Cosmetic dentistry — To correct alignment, we can replace missing teeth with dental implants or bridges, crown overly worn teeth, or move the teeth with orthodontics. This can involve widening constricted arches.
- Exercises — Tightening the jaw muscles and clenching the teeth is a common cause of TMJ problems. We have various jaw exercises that stimulate and relax the jaw muscles.
- Medication — Muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory medication can be effective.
- Lifestyle changes — Stress and anxiety are often root causes; stress reduction techniques are important.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) — Small electrical pulses are delivered to the jaw muscles through a small wand. These pulses stimulate the nerves, encouraging the muscles to relax and the jaw to fall into alignment.
- Splints or night guards — Night grinding and clenching is often a main factor in TMJ. To combat this, it’s important to put the jaw in the correct position at night. To do this, we fabricate plastic mouthpieces that fit over the upper and lower teeth. These are usually worn at night.
- Botox injections — While Botox is known for its ability to erase wrinkles on the upper third of the face, it can also be used for TMJ patients. The FDA has approved Botox for TMJ treatment, and it is very effective for relaxing the overused muscles that lead to TMJ pain.
If you have jaw or facial pain in the morning, it could be a bad night worrying about things. But if your pain is ongoing, it could be signs of TMJ. Call us at Gentle Dental, (732) 549-5660, and let’s get you in to see Dr. Strober.