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 route 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.
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.
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 its 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.
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.