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Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

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TMJ at Harley Street Dental Studio
Transforming Dentistry, Transforming Smiles in London

If you are suffering from jaw pain, headaches, migraines or neck pain, we at Harley Street Dental Studio can help. Ask us about treatment for TMJ Disorder

What is TMJ Disorder?

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, shortened to TMJ, is where the main joint in your mouth, the temporomandibular joint, is misaligned or overworked. It’s a condition that can lead to pain around the mouth and neck, headaches and problems opening and closing the mouth. Some patients with TMJ disorder note that whenever they yawn or chew they experience a clicking in their mouth. Often the symptoms are mistaken for stress or other conditions.

It can be caused by:

  • An unbalanced bite: Bad and uneven bites, such as an overbite or underbite can be a primary cause of TMJ Disorder. It could be a single factor that leads to an unbalanced bite or multiple causes. Allergies during childhood, sucking your thumb or tooth loss causing the shifting of teeth can also cause a bad bite.
  • Airway Problems: If you have issues with your airway, this can cause bite issues, a jaw that has not formed properly and TMJ pain. An unbalanced bite can mean that when breathing your tongue is unable to lie where it needs to in the mouth, and therefore stop air getting into your lungs. This could be due to childhood allergies. If a child is congested on a regular basis, the tongue will drop down to allow air to pass over it. This causes the tongue to no longer be balanced and causes changes in the growth of the upper jaw, causing an airway that is compromised and as a result making it more difficult to breathe.
  • Deformation of the Skull: The pressures and forces exerted on a baby’s head during birth can adjust the shape and affect the development of the skull and bones in a baby’s face and head. If the bones, muscles and ligaments are misaligned, this can affect the development of someone’s TMJ. It also can lead to an unbalanced bite by misaligning the bones in the skull and jaw.
  • Genetics: Your jaw, teeth and facial structure are all inherited, as is your susceptibility to congestion and allergies that could cause airway issues. A bad bite can be caused by simply inheriting a small jaw or teeth too big to fit your mouth properly.
  • Injury, Impact or Trauma: An intense physical impact or an accident that causes trauma or injury to your jaw can lead to damage to your muscles or joints. Whenever the human body absorbs a serious impact, it reverberates through the rest of your body and can alter the joints and muscles in your head, face and neck. This causes TMJ and its resultant irritation, discomfort and pains.
  • Unbalanced Dental Treatment: This can still affect even those who have had orthodontic treatment, as there are invisible problems that could affect your bite and still cause you to suffer from TMJ symptoms.

For more information, please contact the Harley Street Dental Studio now for a consultation.

The symptoms for TMJ Disorder

The symptoms for TMJ Disorder include:

  • Tooth and Jaw Pain: With TMJ disorder, your teeth can more rapidly be worn than if your jaw is properly aligned. This can lead to wear on your teeth that is uneven, the range of jaw motion being reduced or loss and the recession of gums. If you have any pain in your teeth or jaw the root cause could be TMJ.
  • Facial Pains: People with TMJ will very commonly suffer pain in their face. As TMJ disorder affects neck, face and head muscles, if a nerve gets pinched the pain can cause discomfort in your face. The bad bite that dislocates the jaw and surrounding muscles can cause pain behind the eyes as well as pain in the face.
  • Neck, Back and Shoulder Pain: The unaligned bite caused by TMJ disorder can have a ripple effect that affects your shoulder muscles, back and neck. Tight, contracted and sore jaw muscles tilt the head which causes overcompensation by the neck, back and shoulder muscles. This causes pain throughout the upper body.
  • Ear Pain and Congestion: Ear aches, dizziness, ringing in the ears or a congested feeling in your ears can be traced to TMJ disorder. The misaligned jaw makes your ear canal sensitive and affects the muscles and nerves in your ears. This can cause vertigo, dizziness, pain in the ear, sinus pain, reduced hearing and a feeling of congestion in your ears.
  • Numbness and Tingling in fingers, hands and arms: A misaligned bite can cause the nerves and muscles through your face, jaw, neck and shoulders to spasm. This in itself can cause pinched nerves that lead down to your arm, causing tingling and numbness in your fingers, hands and arms. Almost half of people who suffer with TMJ suffer these symptoms, and the numbness and tingling can vary in intensity and whether it occurs with or without pain.
  • Lockjaw, Clicking and Popping of the Jaw: If the jaw is not aligned in the proper position, it causes the TMJ disc to become displaced and the closing of the join spaces. This could result in popping or clicking sensations when you open or close your mouth. This can happen when yawning, or during biting or eating. In extreme instances, the displacement of the TMJ disc can case the jaw to lock if you open your mouth wide, which can cause problems with closing one’s mouth. This needs a doctor’s attention as it it’s a serious condition.
  • Grinding of the Teeth and Jaw: Slight grinding of the teeth isn’t necessarily a serious issue unless it is done unconsciously whilst you are asleep. This is known as Bruxism and can be very painful. It results in a worn out tooth surface, and sometimes even fractured teeth.
  • Headaches: One of the most common complaints TMJ disorder suffer from, headaches are caused when the TMJ is out of alignment. This causes muscle tension in your face, neck and shoulders, which leads to tension headaches. They can also be caused by the build-up of blood pressure due to the muscles straining. Tension headaches can be extremely painful, to the point that they are often misdiagnosed as migraines.
  • Posture issues: TMJ disorder can have serious effects on your entire body posture. When your bite is unbalanced, your muscle activity and the length of your muscles will be similarly unbalanced. If muscles are contracted too much it creates a posture that leans and slouches forward. This has a ripple effect throughout your body, which if not lined up properly can result in a decrease of the physical performance of the body. This can cause you to feel increasingly tired and sluggish through the day.

TMJ Disorder can be easily aggravated by normal daily tasks and so is sometimes difficult to avoid. Anyone suffering from TMJ disorder should seek treatment, as leaving it can lead to serious consequences:

  • Dental Health Concerns: TMJ disorder and putting off treatment can lead to additional dental health issues. The grinding and clenching of teeth caused by TMJ and bruxism can lead to worn down and fractured teeth. Due to the misalignment of the jaw, TMJ sufferers often favour one side of the jaw over the other, and this could cause unsymmetrical muscle growth or swelling on one side of your face, causing an asymmetrical appearance.
  • Tinnitus and Ear Issues: Due to the jaw’s placement directly beneath the ears, TMJ disorder can lead to hearing issues such as tinnitus, as well as damaged hearing and inner ear issues. Problems with the inner ear can cause balance difficulties as well as recurring dizziness.
  • Jaw Problems: TMJ disorder can cause some serious recurring jaw issues, including lockjaw, a condition where the jaw cannot be opened completely, or is stuck open. This can require hospital intervention. If the cartilage in the jaw breaks down it leads to jaw dislocation.
  • Other Medical Concerns: There are other medical conditions that can arise from the effects of TMJ disorder on a patient. A number of patients will change their diet as a result of the pain and limited jaw motion by either not eating much or only eating soft foods and liquids, which could cause nutrition issues. The pain and grinding of teeth can cause issues with sleep as well, including disturbed sleep or insomnia.

TMJ Disorder can be treated through safe, nonsurgical treatment that will permanently solve the issue, so no one has to suffer TMJ disorder or its myriad side effects.

Treatment for TMJ disorder is handled by Dr David Frey, a leading expert in the field of neuromuscular dentistry, who has treated hundreds of patients suffering from TMJ disorder. Neuromuscular dentistry focuses on the position of the jaw, teeth and the tissues surrounding it.

TMJ Disorder treatment is made up of two treatment phases. The first phase is about curing the symptoms and removing the pain and distress from the patient, whilst the second phase is focused on permanently ensuring that TMJ does not recur, with restorative or orthodontic dental procedures. Phase 2 can therefore also involve treatments like permanent splint therapy or bite adjustments.

The treatment progresses as follows

The treatment progresses as follows:

  • Phase One: First of all, a TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine is used to relax the jaw muscles using a series of tiny electrical impulses and find your jaw’s natural most relaxed position. The TENS machine will therefore relax and de-programme jaw muscles that have been overworked. Other exercises can also be used to decompress the temporomandibular joint. We will then use EMG data (electromyography data), to relax and prove your muscles are relaxed using a measure similar to a Richter Scale. After this, we capture this most relaxed position using high quality moulding material and then realign your bite into its optimal position.
  • After this, you will wear a custom-made orthotic (an orthopaedic device used to correct an underlying issue with your jaw placement). It rests on top of the existing teeth, is clear and looks completely natural, but will provide almost immediate relief from the effects of TMJ disorder, something that will increase as your muscles get used to the orthotic device.
  • Phase Two: Once you are completely comfortable with your new bite, Dr Frey may recommend additional cosmetic dental treatment to ensure the results of your treatment retain and there is no relapse of the temporomandibular joint. The exact nature of this depends on your individual circumstances but could include orthodontics or a full mouth rehabilitation. There are a number of options and Dr Frey will go through them with you at the end of Phase One of your treatment.

For more information, please contact the Harley Street Dental Studio now for a consultation.