Dentist near Alpine, UT discusses TMJ disorder and treatments
Your mouth is one of the most vital parts of your anatomy. Without it you could not breathe properly, take in nourishment, or communicate. Yet, while other joints such as wrists, knees, and shoulders get a lot of attention, we tend to ignore the health of joints in the mouth. Dr. Brian Isaacson is a general dentist serving patients in and near Alpine, UT. He helps them understand TMJ disorder and find effective treatments, for comfortable oral function.
The amazing temporomandibular joint
Bend your index finger or knee and you will realize that most joints in the body are meant to move primarily in one direction. However, the temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, must provide a broader range of motion. To support all the functions of the mouth, the jaw must be able to slide forward and back, side-to-side, open and close, and various combinations of these motions. Thus, its anatomy is complex.
Basically, TMJs hinge the mandible to the skull. They are located just in front of the lower portion of ears, on either side of the head. Try placing your index and middle fingers gently on this area while moving your mouth in various ways.
You should feel the joints slide smoothly and in unison. That is made possible by a capsule of fibrous membrane surrounding each joint, and an articular disc with synovial fluid that prevents bones from rubbing together. A series of stretchy ligaments holds the apparatus together, and prevents over-extension. Muscles and nerves control the movements of the jaw.
What can go wrong?
If, when you try the experiment above, you feel the joints grating, popping, or not working in harmony, or there is tenderness or lack of mobility in the mouth, you may have TMJ disorder, also called TMD. Sadly, many people suffer from TMD over a lifetime, being told the discomfort is “all in your head,” or having it masked with pain medications. Some patients resort to invasive surgery in an attempt to find relief.
TMD occurs when the delicate balance of the jaw mechanism is disrupted.
- Bruxism, or clenching and grinding the teeth, is a common cause; this condition places tremendous strain on jaw joints during sleep, when regenerative processes should be taking place
- Worn or ill-fitting dental restorations and crooked teeth may disrupt the bite
- In some cases, TMD is the result of trauma such as a sports injury or vehicle accident
When TMJs become inflamed, they irritate the trigeminal nerve cluster, potentially activating headaches and migraines, facial pain, mouth discomfort, and referred pain in other areas of the body (neck, shoulders, and back).
How an experienced dentist can help
Successful treatment of TMD begins with identifying the underlying cause. That involves a thorough oral examination with digital x-rays and imaging. Dr. Isaacson performs a comprehensive bite analysis and evaluates the condition of the teeth for more clues. He talks with you about symptoms and takes time to understand your medical status, lifestyle, and stressors.
With that information in hand, together you develop a treatment plan tailored to your unique situation. It may involve:
- Bite adjustment – Sometimes all it takes to re-balance bite is modifying the shape of a molar or replacing a crown or filling
- Night guard – This is a smooth, flexible thermoplastic mouthguard, fabricated from impressions, that cushions the impact of bruxing and reduces strain on TMJs
- TMJ splint – This oral appliance adjusts positioning of the jaw, and trains a beneficial “teeth apart/lips closed” at-rest oral posture
- Oral appliance therapy – Sleep apnea, bruxing, and TMJ are intimately related, and some patients find their TMJ improves dramatically when they wear a “snore-guard” at night
- Simple lifestyle adjustments – Giving up chewing gum, changing computer height, using speakerphone… there are a number of easy changes you can make to avoid aggravating the jaw joints
- Stress management – The doctor may suggest meditation, yoga, exercise, or massage therapy to release tension in the TMJs
Dr. Isaacson’s number one priority is the well-being of his patients. If your case of TMD requires more than dental treatment, he is committed to providing integrated care and is happy to work closely with other healthcare providers (such as an orthodontist, physician, or physical therapist) to help you get optimal results.
What you need to know about TMJ disorder and treatments available near Alpine, UT
The most important takeaway from this discussion is that you are not alone in dealing with TMJ disfunction. Your discomfort is real, and without effective treatment, it can result in the deterioration of your jaw joints. Learn more about drug-free and surgery-free treatment options with a consultation at Cedar Hills Family Dentistry. The number is (801)-756-9154.
Back to General Dentistry Page