An individual with TMJ disorder may experience headaches, ear problems, shoulder and/or neck pains, dizziness, toothaches, tenderness around the jaw, the jaw locking in an open or closed position, difficulty opening your mouth wide, trouble chewing, and clicking or popping noises.
Each TMJ works unison with the other and with the lower jaw to allow you to chew, swallow, or speak normally. TMJ disorder can be caused by several reasons including:
- Dislocation of the TMJ
- Injury to the TMJ or surrounding area
- Alignment of the teeth and jaw
- Mouth conditions such as bruxism
- Mouth habits such as grinding, gnashing, clenching
Diagnosis is the first step. Depending on the degree of the disorder a physician or a specialized dentist may be required. The treatment for TMJ is straightforward and works in a progressive manner from simple to more complex treatments.
It is possible to treat TMJ at home with over-the- counter medications, hot-cold treatments, soft foods, and avoiding extreme jaw movements to name a few. Further treatment may require prescription medication, a splint or night guard, dental work. More complex treatments include Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), ultrasound, trigger point injections, radio or laser therapy arthrocentesis, or surgery.
Unconsciously grinding, gnashing or clenching your teeth is known as Bruxism. If bruxism occurs when you are asleep it is called sleep bruxism.
Although, bruxism is not completely understood by doctors possible physical and psychological causes may include:
- High levels of emotions (stress, anxiety, tension, etc.)
- Personality type (aggressive, competitive, hyperactive)
- Abnormal alignment of the upper and lower teeth (malocclusion)
- Sleep problems, such as sleep apnea
- Response to pain from and earache or teething, in children
- Acid Reflux
- Side effect from medications
- A coping strategy or habit
- Complications from other disorders such as Huntington’s or Parkinson’s disease
For children, it is possible to outgrow bruxism. In this case, they may not need treatment. However, for severe cases, there are several options. The dental option, typically, will prevent or correct the wear of the teeth with the use of splints or mouth guards and/or dental restorations, but this altogether may not stop the bruxism. Therapies may be employed to help relieve bruxism, such as stress management, behavior therapy, and biofeedback. An alternative may be the use of medications which have limited effect for treating bruxism. However, in some cases muscle relaxers and OnabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) injections do help some cases with their bruxism.