Temporomandibular or TMJ problems are very common in today’s society. In spite of this fact, they are misunderstood by many physicians and dentists. If you are suffering from a Temporomandibular problem here is what you need to know.
The Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ’s) are the hinges that connect the upper jaw to the lower jaw. When functioning normally they enable pain free, fluid opening and closing of your mouth. Normal function of the TMJ’s enables you to chew, talk, and yawn with comfort. Like all joint systems, the TMJ’s are moved by muscles and stabilized by ligaments. Any problems with the muscles and the ligaments can have a negative effect on the function and comfort of the joints.
TMJ problems are orthopedic in nature and are the result of tired, tight, injured or sore muscles, inflamed tendons, or compromised ligaments, bone and cartilage. As a result, TMJ treatment options are similar to those offered by an Orthopedist when managing a knee problem, for instance.
The first step in TMJ treatment, of course, is to try to prevent further injury by avoiding certain foods (bagels, tough crusty breads, tough meats, uncut apples), and controlling any daytime behaviors that put strain on the jaw muscles or TMJ’s. These activities include:
At times, compromise of the TMJoint and jaw muscles will require the use of an oral appliance (bite plate), which can be compared to a knee brace. These devices have different shapes and forms, can be made of variable materials and have different goals. Most importantly, they cushion the TMJs and diminish tightness in the jaw muscles.
Over-The-Counter oral appliances sold in pharmacies in NYC and Long Island can at times be used to protect the teeth over the short term, but remember, they are not designed to manage a jaw problem over the long term!
On occasion is there is a need to move teeth or do other dental work to manage a jaw related problem. In some instances, changing the way teeth come together, or providing dental care to improve the efficiency of the chewing surfaces of the teeth may help jaw related problems.