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TMJ: Can Dentists Help Reduce Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction?

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TMJ: Can Dentists Help Reduce Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction?

  1. Home
  2. Dental Articles
  3. Orthodontics Articles
  4. TMJ: Can Dentists Help Reduce Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction?

The reason the term ‘TMJ’ is used is because saying ‘temporomandibular joint’ is impossible for anyone suffering any dysfunction related to it, be it temporary or chronic. ‘TMD’ or ‘TMJD’ is the common abbreviation to distinguish the dysfunction from the joint itself because when it gets confusing nobody wants to listen anymore.

The temporomandibular is the hinge on either side of the skull in front of each ear, which connects the mandible (lower jaw) to the maxilla (upper). Second only to the knee joint (tibiofemoral) the TMJ is the most complex joint in the body. In order to talk, eat and drink they need to slide and rotate.

Along with several muscles, it is how the mandible is able to move up and down, side to side, and forward and back. These are intricate movements made over and over and over: the average person eats 32 tonnes of food in a lifetime. That’s a lot of chewin’.

And that’s not counting chewin’ the fat.

The TMJ is defined as a ginglymoarthrodial joint because it has a rotational movement that generates more movement. They’re constrained by the variously passive tension of the ligaments and muscles.

Like all the good engineering of the human body, the mandible and TMJs need to be in accurate alignment so that the articular disk, jaw bone, temporal bone, muscles and ligaments can relentlessly carry out smooth actions.

Anything from delicately separating a tiny fishbone from the mouthful you’ve just taken, to exerting a bite with 40kgs of force so you can really enjoy that steak.

When all these components that make up man’s magical mandible are not aligned, the loss of structural synchronicity results in issues that are intensely impactful on day-to-day life and often difficult to diagnose.

When there’s jaw ache, you know about it; even if what actually causes TMD remains unclear, despite the global millions suffering from it.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research classifies TMD as myofascial pain, internal derangement of the joint (a dislocated jaw or arterial disk) or degenerative joint disease, which includes osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

For added thrill, you can have one or all of these conditions; or ones not like that at all or as the result of having had orthodontics.

TMD can show itself by causing pain in the face. Neck stiffness. Limited movement and locking of the jaw. Headaches. Earaches. Tinnitus. Clicking and popping sounds when you chew. A shift in the horizontal alignment of your teeth. Numbness and tingling in the fingers.

Any, all, and some of these symptoms as well as other incredibly specific ones, can be on one side of the face, or both. The complexities and anomalies of the sensations experienced by TMD sufferers means diagnosis often involves an x-ray, CT scan, or an MRI.

Sometimes all three.

So not only does nobody really know how you get it, and if you do what it looks like, exactly; they’re not even sure how to best find it.

TMD is more common among women than men, and just a shout out to the peanut gallery, not because they never shut up. More interestingly, poor posture, prolonged stress, poor diet and lack of sleep are considered hugely contributing factors in the manifestation and severity of this disorder. In the scheme of existing in the 21st century, men indeed experience stress, unhealthy diet and never having enough sleep but most of them don’t do that in stilettos and Spanx every day.

 

So, TMJ: Can Dentists Help Reduce Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction?

Can a dentist genuinely help?

It’s a treatable disorder that’s outcome depends on the cause of the problem. TMD can certainly be successfully treated, and more often than not requires dedication to fundamental lifestyle changes: more sleep, less stress, more exercise, better posture.

All of that of course is entirely, completely, and unequivocally up to you.

What your dentist can do is take the google-guesswork you’ve done out of the equation, prescribe any appropriate muscle relaxants, pain killers or anti-inflammatories, organise the necessary medical imaging, and fit you with an occlusal splint for some TMJ muscle and nerve R&R.

Of course your dentist can help. While you were out partying and learning how to get TMD, they were learning how to treat it; fourteen years of study just to get to look into your mouth.

Dentists are the gift you have to give yourself. And most certainly if you think you have your own TMD enigma to unwrap.

Note: All content and media on the Bacchus Marsh Dental House website and social media channels are created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.

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Great dental practice! Fong is a very experienced dentist acquiring all my dental needs and the nurse Emily helped my dentist experience a comfortable one. Highly recommend them.

Michael D.

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Great dental practice! Fong is a very experienced dentist acquiring all my dental needs and the nurse Emily helped my dentist experience a comfortable one. Highly recommend them.

Michael D.

After hearing numerous excellent reports about this clinic, I decided to visit myself. I must say that it was a fantastic experience, even better than I expected! The clinic is bright and modern, the receptionists and nurses are friendly and help to put you at ease. The dentist is gentle, knowledgeable and explains everything so thoroughly!

I highly recommend this clinic!
 

Rebecca S.

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