Do you know what the most heavily utilized and under appreciated joint in the human body is? It’s the temporomandibular joint, which is also commonly referred to as TMJ. The TMJ allows you to open and close your mouth, as well as extending and moving your jaw from side to side. It helps you eat, talk and express yourself through facial expressions. Without your TMJ, you would not be able to do the most common task of talking or eating. Like many parts of the human body, the TMJ tends to only get attention when something goes wrong, so pay attention.
A very common problem associated with the teeth and TMJ is teeth grinding, or bruxism. For a majority of people, teeth grinding occurs at night during sleep—this is also known as nocturnal bruxism. Since the grinding of your teeth typically occurs at nighttime, you might be unaware you are even doing it. However, the noise can be enough to wake up your bed partner, or even annoy them. If you suffer from nocturnal bruxism, you might wake up with tightness and soreness in your jaw muscles. Over time, bruxism can cause the destruction of tooth enamel, the formation of gaps between teeth, and damage to the TMJ.
Jaw Pain and Complications
Another condition involving the TMJ is temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), which can exacerbate headaches. Through the successful treatment of TMD, you may even find an improvement in your headaches. When TMD is severe, the TMJ can painfully lock, which can cause a person to be unable to move their jaw until the joint is realigned—this might require surgery. These issues of the TMJ can also occur in correlation with bruxism, excessive jaw clenching, jaw trauma, and sometimes without any clear cause.
Oral Appliance Therapy
A common treatment for TMD is the use of a night guard, or oral appliance, which is a plastic mouthpiece that covers the teeth and prevents enamel on enamel contact. A night guard is typically created and used for the upper teeth. We can create a night guard custom made to meet your individual needs, which is significantly better than boil and bites.
To learn more about TMD and other complications with your TMJ, please contact Craniofacial Pain & Dental Sleep Center of Georgia for more information.