TMJ

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“We were all designed to grind our teeth. As kids, we grind to help loosen the baby teeth; as adults, we grind to increase chewing function. However, some patients have developed the tendency to grind their teeth excessively. This overworks the system–a system we must use everyday.”
Chris Blume, DDS

Causes of TMJ Disorder
When muscles and joints do not work properly, the muscles will often go into a spasm. This spasm can become part of a cycle that results in tissue damage, pain, muscle tenderness and more spasm. While some cases of TMJ Disorder may have clear-cut causes (trauma, arthritis, severe stress, etc.), most are due to a combination of these factors.

In addition, discs can sometimes slip forward in the jaw joint, leading to problems such as clicking, popping or even getting “stuck” for a moment. However, these often are minor problems and, on their own, may not constitute TMJ Disorder. In the absence of jaw pain, they usually don’t require treatment.

Oral habits such as clenching or grinding (bruxism) may develop as a response to stress or as part of a sleep disorder. You may be unaware of nighttime clenching or grinding, but you may catch yourself doing this during the day. These habits can tire the muscles and cause them to go into spasm. This spasm causes pain which in turn causes more spasm. In time, persistent muscle problems may affect the joints themselves, and a complex cycle of pain and improper function will be established.

Signs and Symptoms
TMJ has many signs and symptoms:

  • Pain in or around the ear and sometimes spreading to the face
  • Tenderness of the jaw muscles
  • Clicking or popping noise when one opens or closes their mouth
  • Difficulty in opening one’s mouth
  • Jaw that seems stuck, locked or “goes out”
  • Pain developed by yawning, chewing or opening the mouth widely
  • Certain types of headaches or neck pain
  • Teeth are chipping away at the gum line
  • Teeth are extremely sensitive to cold temperatures
Treatment Options
Treatments for TMJ and bruxism vary based on the individual:

  • Eliminate muscle spasm and pain by applying moist heat or taking prescribed medication such as muscle relaxants, analgesics or anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Eliminate some of the harmful effects of clenching or grinding the teeth by wearing a dental night guard (bruxism device)
  • Practice relaxation techniques to help control muscle tension in the jaw
What is a Dental Night Guard?
A dental night guard is a custom-fitted mouthpiece to help alleviate the symptoms of TMJ or bruxism. It is commonly made of a hard or soft plastic. You should wear it at night to prevent damage from clenching and grinding as you sleep.
Will My Insurance Cover a Night Guard?
Typically, insurance companies give vague details when it come to covering night guards. If our dentist recommends a night guard, we will contact your insurance company to try to determine your benefits as best as possible.
How Do We Make a Night Guard?
At the first appointment, we will take an impression, which will be sent to a laboratory. After we receive the night guard, we will deliver the night guard to you at a second appointment and make initial adjustments, as needed. Sometimes it is necessary to have a third appointment for further adjustments.