From a night of grinding noise, broken incisors or molars to bleeding your wallet dry in purchasing veneers or implant, these are just a few of the challenges brought along by a joint dysfunction more popularly known as TMJ. In an average of 80-90% of patients with this condition almost two thirds of these are women ranging from twenty to forty years of age.
The temporomandibular joint attaches the lower jaw to the temporal bone. It comprises a network of muscles and cartilage working together to facilitate simple to complex actions. From the opening and closing or moving from side to side of the mouth in talking or chewing and even in showing facial expressions.
It is also a connection of our nerves from our spinal cord to our brain. Although it clearly plays a major role in bodily functions, it has been given the least attention until problems associated with its dysfunction starts to show.
Below are known challenges and dangers of a TMJ dysfunction:
Bruxism or nocturnal bruxism commonly called as “Teeth Grinding” occurs mostly at night. This makes the person unaware of such things happening unless a sleeping partner starts to complain of the noise. More often than not, diagnosis is even only during routine dental visits when tooth enamel destruction and gap formations can be seen.
Headache exacerbations can result from misalignment or damage to the ligaments, cartilage or tendons on the TMJ complex. Underlying causes has been mentioned by physicians and range from jaw trauma, excessive jaw clenching but still in many cases without clear cause or history of other conditions. Most headache specialist look upon the condition of the TMJ to evaluate the existing condition that which in severe cases, joints may become rigid and locked requiring invasive procedures such as surgery for realignment.
Recently developed treatments are focused on prevention of complications and pain relief. A range of invasive and non-invasive procedures were developed by dentists and other experts so as to help relieve the discomfort brought about by such condition.
A night guard is a plastic mouthpiece to help prevent enamel destruction from bruxism or night teeth grinding. It is fitted to the upper teeth and has been widely chosen as treatment for Bruxism. Over-the-counter night guards are readily available but there are so called custom night guards made especially for you by private dentists. Although more expensive than the ordinary ones, it is highly recommended for several reasons. The custom made night guards are more comfortable to wear. It is thinner and fits well to the patient’s teeth or bite unlike most over-the-counter night guards that don’t fit well and can even cause more problems like shifting of the teeth and more TMJ related problems.
Jaw surgery by realignment of the TMJ complex can be an option for treatment. In addition to this, a lesser invasive procedure involves injecting directly into the joint. One of these less painful option is the popular cosmetic filler Botulinum toxin popularly known as Botox. In cosmetic surgery it usually relaxes muscles, thus smoothens wrinkles and lines. In a similar sense, when injected directly into the joint, the tightness decreases, relaxing the muscle joints and decreasing pain and discomfort. As most patients develop visibly larger jaw muscles from excessive clenching, Botox treatments serves a double purpose of face contouring in addition to decrease pain and discomfort. Many patients even claim to have a smoother jaw line and elimination of pain over time. Well that’s just the famous saying of hitting two birds with one stone and not to mention it is cost effective making you save money from expensive implants or more painful surgeries. However the safety, side effects or long term benefits are still under observation.
As more treatments surface to relieve the discomfort, whether temporary or for long term gain, it is best to look to dentists, oral surgeons and other experts for the most suitable treatments. As experts continue their research on this condition, it has been concluded that it is truly a complex disorder involving other medical factors like hormones, genes and even environmental triggers or trauma. It is safe to say that treatments involving noninvasive and reversible procedures is so far the best option.