The Importance of TMJ as the Foundation of a Healthy Mouth
When you think about your mouth’s health, you probably think about your teeth and gums. Those are certainly important to good oral health. Still, you may be forgetting about one of the most essential elements of a healthy mouth – the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Most people do not think about this vital jaw joint until it becomes a problem, but the motion and complexity of the TMJ are the foundation for your overall dental health. If the temporomandibular joint is not working properly, everything in your mouth can be negatively affected.
What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which joins the jawbone to the skull and allows you to open and close your mouth. It is a complex hinge on each side of your face that is responsible for everything from talking to eating, brushing your teeth, and laughing. It is the most used joint in the body. Not even the knee or hip joint is used as much, making it prone to deterioration or injury.
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Why Is the Temporomandibular Joint So Important?
Deterioration of the joint, a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD, can cause a host of problems that lead to everything from cavities to a misaligned jaw. If the TMJ is not working correctly, multiple symptoms can flare up, causing pain and damaging your oral and overall health.
The TMJ affects the alignment of your teeth, your ability to eat properly, speech patterns, the enamel on your teeth, and even whether you can effectively care for your teeth and gums. If you develop TMJ Disorder and do not treat it, you could develop serious health problems.
Symptoms a TMJ problem may be affecting your health include:
- Chronic toothaches
- Chronic headaches or facial pain
- Headaches when you wake up
- Earaches without ear problems
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Clicking, grating, or popping of your jaw joint
- Difficulty chewing or opening your mouth wide
- Pain when chewing or biting down
- A jaw that locks or sticks
- Ringing in the ears
- Unexplained swelling on the cheeks or jawline
The TMJ’s effect on your health is dramatic because of the joint’s location and complexity. It is obvious that the temporomandibular joint can cause pain and create problems throughout your face, head, and upper body. Nerves are running in and around the TMJ. When these nerves are irritated or inflamed, the pain radiates to your teeth, neck, face, and shoulders.
If your TMJ is misaligned, your teeth cannot chew effectively, leading to uneven wear and damage to your teeth and gums. These can lead to gum disease, cavities, and even broken teeth. If the jaw locks or pops, the grating can cause headaches, ringing in the ears, and difficulty eating and speaking. Untreated, TMJ Disorder can lead to insomnia, fitful sleep, dependence on sleep medications, and worn, chipped, or misaligned teeth.
Treating TMJ Disorder Minimizes Oral Health Problems
If you suffer from TMJ pain or problems with a clicking or popping jaw, getting it treated early can protect your healthy mouth and smile. The key is early intervention and treatment before the damage to your teeth and gums becomes a significant health problem.
Treating TMJ can be difficult, but there are several approaches to consider, including:
- A splint to realign your bite
- A mouth guard to prevent tooth grinding
- Steroid injections into the TMJ to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain
- Botox injections to temporarily relax tight muscles
- Arthrocentesis to drain fluid around the TMJ
- Physical therapy, including ice, moist heat, and ultrasound treatments
- TMJ exercises to loosen the muscles around the joint
Surgery can reposition, restore, or replace certain parts of the joint when all else fails. Recovery times can be lengthy, including months of physical therapy. Rather than wait until the surgery is needed, you should talk to a dentist or oral surgeon about options for treating any TMJ problems before they lead to other health issues such as damaged teeth and headaches.
Dr. Alex at Main Line Dental Group can evaluate your temporomandibular joint and advise you on the best option for correcting any problems before they create a cascade of other health issues. Contact us at Main Line Dental Group Phone Number 610-971-0717 or schedule an appointment online to schedule an appointment for a TMJ consultation today.
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