ORTHODONTICS AND TMJ
Over the past several years, Advances in dentistry have given individuals suffering from dental problems new opportunities to attain a healthy and beautiful smile. Orthodontists, well-known for correcting crooked teeth with braces, appliances or Invisalign, can also treat a prevalent and troublesome dental issue which is Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorder or TMD.
What is the Definition of TMJ?
TMJ is a disorder of the jaw joints which creates jaw and bite alignment malfunctions in individuals suffering from this dental disorder. The mandibular bone [the lower jaw] is designed to slide and rotate to allow a range of motion when chewing and speaking. The causes of TMJ can range from grinding of the teeth, clenching of the jaw, a highly stressful lifestyle, and age-related wearing down of the jaw bone and joint. Other factors are hypermobile ligaments, arthritic conditions and cranial sacral distortions.
What Are Symptoms of TMJ?
Some physical symptoms of TMJ include extreme jaw pain and discomfort, headaches, facial pain, the clicking of the jaw at the joints, limited jaw mobility, excessively worn out teeth, locking of the jaw, earaches, and ringing in the ears. Nerve pain and damage caused by the misalignment of the jaw may become permanent if left untreated. While most TMJ symptoms are merely mild to moderate in severity, specific symptoms such as limiting jaw mobility can create serious health problems such as the inability to chew food correctly, leading to nutritional deficiencies.
The efficient chewing of food helps break down the vitamins, minerals, and proteins necessary for optimum nutrition. TMJ may also create sleeping difficulties due to the substantial amount of pain in the jaw. Symptoms seem to worsen at night due to the inability of the muscles and joints to relax. Misalignment of the jaw may also complicate other sleep issues, such as individuals suffering from sleep apnea.
Treatment Options Through Orthodontics
There are several treatment options available through orthodontics for TMJ. Treatment will depend upon many individual factors such as the patient’s overall health, medical history, tolerance of medications and mouth appliances, and the extent of the disorder.
Some of the more common treatments of TMJ include
- resting the joints of the jaw.
- Stress management techniques to reduce clenching of the jaw.
- Pain medications.
- Mouth exercises.
- Heat and cold compress.
- Orthopaedic appliances such as mouth guards or Aqualiser splints. This will help to reduce the effects of tooth grinding and give pain relief.
Once pain relief is achieved, orthodontic treatment can follow to help with long-term stability and function. Our Orthodontist Dr Belur focuses primarily on splint therapy initially as the preferred method of conservative treatment. We can provide an Aqualiser TMD splint that unloads the jaw joints, thereby relieving the pain associated with overly tight TM joints. We have found this treatment method very effective even in patients who have had TMJ splints made by other dentists without achieving relief. Once the pain relief is stabilised, an orthodontic / multi-disciplinary treatment plan could be undertaken to mimic the bite to correct the same, which may have contributed to the TMJ symptoms.