At Blue Sky Smiles, we want all of our friends, neighbors, and community members to be able to live their best lives, free from chronic pain. But for many, that thought may seem like a pipe dream. Do you suffer from chronic headaches and migraines? Does your jaw pop, lock, and ache? Is your neck stiff? Have you been living in an endless cycle of pain and painkillers? You may be one of millions of Americans suffering from TMJ or TMD, and you might not even know it.
TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint, or the jaw joint. TMD stands for temporomandibular joint dysfunction, to indicate a problem with the joint. Often times these two terms are used interchangeably and are sometimes even referred to as TMJD just to make things confusing. For clarity, we will use TMJ to describe the joint and TMD to describe the dysfunction.
TMD can occur for any number of reasons. Chronic stress is the leading contributing factor because we tend to hold a lot of our stress in this area, which manifests in the form of teeth grinding and clenching or bruxism. Which came first, the TMD or the bruxism is difficult to determine – it’s a chicken versus egg situation.
TMD can also occur because of alignment and bite problems, or a traumatic injury to the joint itself. It’s interesting to note that the majority – 90% – of TMD sufferers are women in their childbearing years. There are many reasons for this gender disparity, including physical differences in the joint structure, hormone receptors in the TMJ, instances of arthritis, and tendency to report symptoms and seek treatment.
If any of the above sounds all too familiar, we would love to help you break the cycle and prevent your pain at the source. In order to provide you with the right treatment, we first need to assess the cause of your TMD. We will perform a comprehensive exam of your teeth and bite including digital x-rays.
If we determine you have any alignment or bite problems, we may suggest orthodontics or restorative dentistry to correct the problem and bring your mouth into a healthier balance. This should alleviate the stress on your TMJ that’s causing your pain.
If you clench and grind your teeth, we can create a custom night guard for you to wear during sleep. This simple treatment method can provide incredible relief. The mouthguard protects your teeth from being damaged and worn down and offers a soft cushion to minimize the stress and tension on your jaw joint.
If your TMJ is severe, caused by damage from a traumatic injury or if there is a problem with the physical structure of the joint itself, you may need corrective surgery to fix the problem.
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*Dr. Robinson is a general dentist providing orthodontic services.