TMJ or TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) occurs when the upper jaw and the lower jaw (mandible) don’t line up correctly. An orthodontist is the best type of specialist to see for this disorder because of their expertise in how the face and jaw work together.
Causes of TMJ
- Bite problems
- Teeth grinding or clenching
- Jaw joint erosion
- Arthritis of the joint
- Stress and anxiety
- Congenital problems with the joint
- Excessive fingernail biting
- Repeatedly chewing on ice or other hard objects
The Temporomandibular joint is the hinge that allows movement for talking, eating, yawning, and chewing. Anything that puts repeated stress on that joint (such as teeth grinding) can adversely affect it and cause degeneration.
Often, the cause of TMJ is a bite problem in the mouth which prevents the upper and lower joint from aligning properly. An orthodontist can treat this condition with braces which can solve the problem and alleviate the symptoms. When the bite issue is corrected, the joint slides back into its correct position.
Studies have shown that up to 75% of patients who have malformations of the teeth or jaw have TMJ. Women are twice as likely to have it as men, though the reasons for this are unknown.
Symptoms of TMJ
- Painful popping or clicking of the jaw when opening or closing the mouth
- Chronic headaches
- Jaw stiffness
- Discomfort or pain when chewing
- Pain that radiates to the ear, neck, or shoulders
- Swelling around the joint
- Teeth that are worn down
- Locking of the jaw
Treatment for TMJ
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can help with pain and swelling. Applying moist heat or eating soft foods also helps. However, the condition is not going to go away until the underlying cause is corrected.
Sometimes, all it takes is behavior modification. For example, if someone is clenching their jaw a lot or grinding their teeth, stress-reduction techniques can help. A nighttime mouthguard can also provide some relief.
In extreme conditions where the joint has been damaged by arthritis or erosion, surgery may even be necessary. However, it’s very common for TMJ to be caused by problems with the teeth or the way the mouth is biting down.
Dr. Grewal is an expert in identifying and treating malocclusions (problems with the bite) and jaw/face alignment. X-rays are the first step to proper diagnosis and those are offered as part of our free consultation.
If you or your child is experiencing these types of symptoms, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss what might be causing them and the appropriate treatment options.