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TMJ Treatment

Severe jaw painThe temporomandibular joint — or “TMJ” — is the area where your lower jaw (mandible) attaches near the front of the ear on either side of your face. When there’s strain or tension to the joint, it can result in a painful condition that we refer to as TMJ disorder, or TMD.

Understanding TMJ

Your TMJ is a special joint that allows your mandible to move up and down and side to side. Between eating, talking, smiling and laughing, it moves thousands of times per day, making it one of the most active joints in your entire body. Combined with the extensive forces of up to 300 pounds per square inch of biting pressure, it’s no surprise that overuse and strain can lead to debilitating TMJ fatigue.

Teeth grinding and clenching is usually a subconscious activity. Most people don’t realize that they’re engaging their jaw muscles and teeth until they start to experience TMJ pain. Unfortunately, the habit is usually not one that you can reverse without the help of a dental appliance.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Tooth grinding and clenching
  • Neck and back pain
  • Individual tooth sensitivity
  • Popping or clicking of the joint
  • Worn, fractured teeth
  • Ear pain
  • Limited range of movement
  • Crooked or misaligned teeth and jaws

People with TMJ problems typically have stressful jobs or lifestyles. The added pressure in their lives tends to cause them to clench and grind their teeth (bruxism) as a response to the stressors around them. Depending on the severity of their pain, we may recommend a deprogramming splint to wear during the daytime or a special guard to wear while they sleep at night.

Deprogramming Splints vs. Night Guards

Treatment for TMJ is usually a special type of splint or guard, which prevents the teeth from fully engaging. As a result, the TMJ and muscles around it can’t completely contract, so they’re able to stay in a resting position.

Depending on when you suffer from bruxism or clenching the most, we may recommend a night guard over a daytime deprogrammer. Daytime devices are for individuals who notice pain throughout the day, such as at their desk or during their commute home after work. These appliances are smaller and fit over the top front teeth.

On the other hand, night guards cover the entire arch and protect the teeth against more severe wear while you sleep. If you notice TMJ pain, earaches or headaches when you wake up in the morning, a night guard is usually the best type of appliance to wear. Over time you might start to notice your guard starting to wear out. That’s a good thing; it means your appliance is protecting your teeth, and that the acrylic is giving in, rather than your tooth enamel or dental work.

If you’re in severe pain, we will usually start treatment with a deprogramming device, to prevent your back teeth from touching each other. When your muscles are fully relaxed, we can move on to a small mouthguard to help open up space in the joint, improve TMJ health and stop teeth from damaging one another.

TMJ Examinations

Male client on Dental Chair with dental assistantIf you suspect that you have TMJ disorder, be sure to let our family dentist know. During your routine checkup, we’ll complete a TMJ exam to determine if there are any irregularities or concerns. Surprisingly, many people have TMJ pain because of the busy, demanding lifestyles that they have.

As part of your exam, we’ll have you open and close your mouth as we palpate (feel with our fingers) the sides of your face, just in front of either ear. We’ll check for any trigger points, muscle tension or pain. It’s also important to rule out any other causes, like abscessed teeth.

Why do I Keep Getting Earaches?

Ear pain is one of the most common side effects of TMJ disorder. Because the TMJ is located directly next to either ear, tension and pain often radiates into the ear area, presenting itself as a possible ear infection or earache. If you’re also noticing symptoms of flat teeth, headaches or neck pain, it’s important to see our dentist to rule TMJ out as a cause of your ear pain.

Do Exercises Help with TMJ?

Massage, warm compresses and special exercises (including physical therapy) can help with TMJ disorder. However, they do not correct the cause of your jaw pain. Since the underlying factor typically comes back to chronic teeth clenching and grinding, it’s essential to treat bruxism at its source with a custom mouthguard.

Custom vs. Over-the-Counter Splints

It’s not uncommon for individuals to try over-the-counter products to self treat their bruxism. Although commercial products tend to be affordable, they don’t offer the same level of protection or comfort that you achieve with one that’s made by a dentist.

When we fit you with a custom mouth guard or deprogrammer, we’ll use an impression of your actual oral anatomy for the best fit possible. From there, the appliance will sit snuggly in place, rather than shift around or feel cumbersome. For this reason, a professional guard is usually much easier to sleep with or wear during the day. You won’t have to worry about the bulky fit or having it fall out at night. Plus, the materials protecting your teeth are much stronger, allowing you to wear your appliance for longer spans of time.

Will Insurance Pay for My Appliance?

Depending on the type of health coverage that you have, your insurance may pay for a custom bite guard. During your consultation we can check with your plan carrier to determine if nightguards or deprogrammers are part of the plan you’re enrolled in. Be sure to bring a copy of your health fund card with you to your appointment.

Do I Have TMJ Disorder?

If you suffer from frequent headaches, chipped teeth or jaw pain, contact us to request a TMJ Sydney CBD screening today. We offer same day emergency appointments.

* Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

TMJ Treatment in Sydney CBD, Park Street NSW | (02) 9264 5333