The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a long phrase for a tiny point at which your jawbone connects to the skull. This is a sliding joint, allowing for a huge range of motion from the jaw. This range of motion, however, leaves the joint susceptible to several disorders which can create pain in this area.
What Causes TMDs?
TMDs (temporomandibular disorders) are as varied as people are. Some causes are age, arthritis, misalignment, physical injury, or even genetics.
One particularly common cause of TMJ pain is bruxism: excessive clenching of the jaw or grinding of the teeth. When faced with high levels of stress and anxiety, many people clench their jaws, often unknowingly. Some are genetically pre-disposed to this condition, and some do it because of other related disorders, such as sleep apnea.
This can happen both awake and asleep. In fact, sleep bruxism is often not recognized as a problem, because it happens while unconscious.
Why is This a Problem?
The pain from a TMD can often be minor. It may seem insignificant, but it is caused by something. Those causes can affect more than just the joint.
Bruxism often grinds teeth down so far that the enamel is worn clean away. Tooth enamel cannot regrow on its own. A combination of treatment and dental repair is the only way to address these issues once they arrive.
If the TMD comes from an injury or misalignment, the joint may be under enormous strain, which will eventually wear it out. Without treatment, the pain and discomfort will only get worse.
Sleep apnea is a condition where breathing actually stops up to hundreds of times in a single night, due to closed-off airways. Those who have sleep apnea wake up each time, in order to restart breathing. The list of health problems that positively correlate with sleep apnea is long, including heart problems, hypertension, stroke, and even death. If the TMD is caused by sleep apnea, more than just teeth and jaw muscles are at risk.
What Are My Options?
The good news is that most of these problems can be treated without surgery. Our practice offers a variety of treatment options, as well as full diagnostic testing. Some of these treatments include mouth guards, orthotic appliances, and equilibration.
Because each cause of TMJ pain is highly individual, contact us for a diagnostic test. Once we know exactly what you need, we’ll be able to discuss the options that are right for you. If you’re having TMJ pain, call Drs. Hill and Schneidmiller now.