What is TMJ Disorder?

Temporomanidbular Joint (TMJ) Disorder is a common subgroup of pain disorders that involve the TMJ jaw joint.

TMJ Disorder

TMJ Disorder

Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:

  • Headaches or neck pain
  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw and surrounding muscles
  • Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing
  • Difficulty in opening or closing your mouth
  • Clicking, popping or cracking sounds or feel a grating sensation in your jaw when you open or close your mouth
  • Locking of the joint
  • An uncomfortable bite

Studies show that women are three times more likely to develop this disorder. This may be because the collagen that holds the disk in the joint is structurally different in women. In addition, some studies have shown that hormones such as oestrogen play a role.

What causes TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint is a complex web of bone muscle and tendons, so many things can cause the jaw to not operate smoothly and cause jaw pain. Symptoms of TMJ disorder can stand alone, or be the result of another condition altogether.

Causes of TMJ disorder are not understood completely, but can include:

  • Trauma to the jaw, either by a direct injury or long-term clenching and/or grinding of the teeth (Bruxism) or abnormal biting habits
  • Tension or stress triggering muscle spasm
  • Poor alignment of the teeth
  • Abnormalities in growth development
  • Degenerative arthritic conditions or degenerative joint diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis)

‘Current research suggest that most disorders of jaw joint and muscle function are in fact multifactorial’ (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research)

Treatments

TMJ disorder treatment focuses on relieving pain and improving the function of the jaw joint. There are many different ways to treat TMJ disorder. However, it is important to understand that none of these treatments have been extensively researched or proven to work. With this in mind, Akit recommends a conservative, non-invasive therapy and self-care techniques with lifestyle changes. Some patients do not get better with home care and basic lifestyle changes. In conjunction, splint therapy can be advocated. Most patients feel much better or have complete resolution of all symptoms in weeks or months without significant treatment. Many patients do not require more than self care techniques.

‘Less is best’ (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research)

Splint Therapy

| aka: mouth guard, nightguard, bite plate, bite appliance |

Splint therapy

Splint therapy

A splint is a custom made appliance made from moulded acrylic usually covering all of the upper teeth. It aims to change the position of the jaw to reduce the pressure on the joint. It is usually worn primarily at night, though some people like to use it in the daytime as well. The most important thing is that they are made correctly. With precise splint construction and continual wear the symptoms can be relieved. Splints are most effective in combination with other conservative treatments such as self-care techniques, pain management and physiotherapy.

Theories on mode of action:

  • Muscle and ligament relaxation therefore relaxing the facial muscles and reducing the pressure on the jaw bones.
  • Minimise clenching and/or grinding habits that creates tension in facial muscles
  • Protect teeth and artificial restorations from any active clenching and/or grinding (provides a cushion that absorbs impact when the teeth meet together; distribute any harmful biting forces; the biting surface can wear down which can be replaced (your teeth are irreplaceable)
  • Create an optimal and stable bite
  • Realign any displaced disc within the joint
  • Prevent future damage of restorations i.e. after complex rehabilitation

There are many types of treatments for TMJ disorder. At present, there are no approved treatments or medications (NICE guidelines). It is therefore important to consider conservative and reversible therapies.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or would like to discuss splint therapy, you will require an examination to diagnose the problem. Based on this, Akit will recommend the most appropriate treatment in how to make things better for you.

If you would like to see clinical cases of splint therapy please view the gallery.

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