Many patients develop some sort of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) discomfort in their lifetime. When a patient develops symptoms of pain, locking, clicking, difficulty opening or chewing, it is referred to temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD).

The temporomandibular joint acts like sliding hinge joint located in front of your ear. As the TMJ gets inflamed or the muscles associated to the joint become inflamed, pain develops. You may develop tenderness inside and out of your mouth, ringing in your ear, facial pain, achiness of facial muscles, locking of the joint, referred pain to your teeth, clicking, crepitus (sounds like sand in the joint), or many other TMJ-related issues.

Some risk factors for TMD may include:

  • Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Age
  • Stress
  • Trauma to the jaw
  • Chronic grinding of their teeth (bruxism)
  • Clenching
  • Misaligned teeth/jaw
  • Some autoimmune diseases and connective tissue diseases

Many people clench and grind their teeth (bruxism), which may lead to TMJ issues. Night guards, also referred to as bite guards or occlusal guards, are used to protect the teeth and relieve pressure in the joint space. Many people grind their teeth at night and over time, wear down their teeth and develop issues in their TMJ. Often times a patient will present with headaches, sore jaw muscles upon waking in the morning, broken or sensitive teeth, which can be signs that you are grinding your teeth.

Occlusal guards are also important after extensive dental work has been completed or after implants have been placed. It is very important to protect your natural teeth as well as restored teeth and implants from destruction caused by bruxism.

Many times it takes a multidisciplinary approach to relieve the painful symptoms caused by TMD. We work closely with patients’ medical physicians, physical therapists, and massage therapists to help relieve your pain. Often times we work closely with our local orthodontists to help correct jaw and teeth misalignment to help alleviate TMJ related issues as well.

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