TMJ issues (also known as TMD), is often linked to clenching or grinding our teeth (bruxism) which falls outside what is considered the normal functions of our teeth.
Our teeth are only meant to be in contact with each other for a matter of minutes a day but if you are a prolific clencher/grinder, it may mean you do it for the majority of the day and while you sleep. As we do these parafunctions we over use the surrounding muscles which can spasm out and lead to further complications (lock jaw, clicky jaw etc).
These are the common signs that indicate a clenching/grinding habit:
- Bite marks on inside cheeks (white line)
- Tongue scalloping (indentations into tongue)
- Worn teeth (smooth tops)
- Enlarged/tender masseters (muscles that contract as we bite down to the sides of our mouths)
- Enlarged/tender temporalis (muscles that contract as we bite down by our temples)
These are the signs that our dentists will look out for at the dental assessment. Some patients may then suffer with the following symptoms that can be associated with these signs (and may determine the root cause of the patients pain).
Some of the common symptoms linked with TMD/TMJ include:
- Headaches (can feel like migraines)
- Facial pain
- Jaw ache
- Neck pain
- Upper back pain
- Pressure around the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Ear pain
If you feel that you have the signs and symptoms of TMD we advise calling us today to book in for your dental assessment.
Who Can Get TMD?
TMD can affect anyone at any age. It is estimated that at least 30% of the population will suffer with this disease at some point in their lifetime. However, 80% of those affected, will find that it will go through self-management and no intervention will be required to treat them.
One of the biggest causes for TMD is stress. It is not uncommon for patients to go through a tough patch in their life that leads to TMD pain (divorce/deaths/exams etc). This is why self-management and preservation can help, as taking control of the areas in your life which may be causing the stress, can have a positive impact on this disease – we know this is easier said than done.
It is very common for children to grind their teeth, especially as the teeth first start to come through. Most children will outgrow this habit, and the sound of them grating their teeth makes is sound worse than it actually is. If your child is still grinding their teeth when their adult teeth come through, please raise this concern with your dentist so we can assess if any damage or wear is being caused.
Do No Harm First
In the TMD arena it is important to follow the do no harm first protocols. TMD is not a straight forward diagnosis and if not properly diagnosed, we may not be treating the root cause of your problems. Because of this, it’s very important to go through all the non invasive options before considering any of the non-reversible treatments.
Self-management is always the best place to start as it is the least invasive and can easily be completed at home by the patient, and there is no cost associated to this option.
Historically TMD has been a difficult area to treat with limited options. The first step is self management:
Lifestyle changes can help improve your symptoms, such as having a softer diet to let your muscles relax, not chewing gum or your finger nails, and don’t bite down on pen tops. The idea is to let your chewing muscles relax and to not over work them. There are jaw exercises that can be given to help relax your muscles when you are at home.
Bite guards are one of the most traditional methods at helping patients with TMD. A soft guard can be used to be worn during the night time to act as a barrier between your teeth to help reduce the stress being put on your teeth. If a soft guard has already been tried, then a hard guard may be required to look at adjusting your occlusion (how your teeth meet) if it is deemed there is an occlusion problem.
Please note: if you are a prolific clencher/grinder, a soft guard can make your clench or grind more (on the guard), and may not reduce all the associated TMD pain.
One of the latest innovations is now available in the UK which utilises custom made ear inserts to keep your ear canals in the open position as you go to clench or grind. This creates a cognitive awareness as you go to do those parafunctions which tells the brain it’s uncomfortable and to relax. The only way the brain can correct itself is to promote the jaw into a slightly open bite position. They can be worn during the day and night and is a totally reversible, non-invasive and discrete option.
Overtime this will break your clenching/grinding habit, training your brain not to do these parafunctions in the first place.
Secondary Care Referrals
If the non-invasive options have not worked and you are still suffering with your TMD pain, we can make a referral to secondary care (dental hospital). They are in the position to offer more treatments than we can complete in primary care, but the treatments do have a higher risk, and may not be reversible. The consultant you see will provide you with the options they can complete and what the associated risks are.
Please note: we always aim to explore the non-invasive options to begin with to give you the best chance of treatment early on.
Book Your Dental Assessment Today
To find out what is the best option for your own individual case, please do not hesitate to call us and book your dental assessment today.