What is TMJ?

TMJ is an abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint. The TMJ is the hinge that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. TMJ is also often used to reference TMD, temporomandibular joint disorder. 

What is TMD?

TMD is an abbreviation for temporomandibular joint disorder. TMD is characterized by numerous symptoms related to the jaw and its supporting structures that include various types of facial and upper body pain and discomfort. 

What are the symptoms of TMD?

There is a wide scope of symptoms that can be caused directly and indirectly from TMD. These symptoms can include pain or tenderness in the face, neck, or shoulders, issues trying to open your mouth wide, locked jaws, popping sounds in your jaw joint, facial swelling, issues chewing, headaches, dizziness, and more. Read more about all the possible symptoms of TMD here.

What causes TMD?

There is a multitude of different contributing factors that can cause TMD. Arthritis, head trauma, bruxism (teeth clenching), poor genetics, bad posture, gum chewing, etc. can all cause TMD. 

Is TMD responsible for my headaches?

There are many factors that can cause headaches, however, TMD is one explanation. Stress can contribute to teeth clenching which puts unnecessary pressure on the TMJs. This can start the vicious cycle of muscle spasms, pain, and headaches that all lead to TMD.

Will TMD treatment stop my headaches and/or the ringing in my ears?

There is a connection between TMD, chronic headaches, and ear ringing. Most patients do experience significant relief from headaches and ear ringing after a proper course of TMD treatment, but there is no way to guarantee complete prevention of these symptoms. 

Will TMD treatment alleviate my facial pain?

Yes, each phase of TMD treatment is designed to alleviate chronic pain while addressing the stability of your chewing system. Once treatment is complete, facial pain stemming from TMJ health issues should be resolved. If you are still experiencing facial pain after successful TMD treatment, another condition may be the underlying cause. Please contact your dentist to further evaluate what is causing your facial pain. 

Do popping jaw joints mean I have TMD?

If you are experiencing popping jaw joints, it is possible that you have TMD. This symptom alone is not enough to properly diagnose a patient. Many patients experience intermittent clicking in their jaw joints, so popping shouldn’t cause any alarm. The only way to determine if you have TMD is by an oral examination by your dentist. If you’re experiencing other related symptoms, it is important to schedule an oral examination as soon as possible.

How is TMD diagnosed?

Since TMD has so many symptoms that can also implicate other health conditions, the only way to properly diagnose TMD is by your dentist. Your dentist will conduct a comprehensive oral exam in addition to going through your medical history in order to draw the right conclusion.  

Are there home remedies for TMD?

While there are definitely treatments we can recommend for our patients to try at home, in order to properly address this condition and ensure it doesn’t lead to more serious, permanent health conditions, professional treatment is required. Home remedies can help manage the symptoms of TMD but not treat it. 

Are there exercises that can help relieve TMD pain?

There are numerous exercises that can help relieve your jaw pain. Here are a few examples:

  • Push down on your bottom teeth with one hand while pushing upwards with your jaw
  • Place your thumb below your chin while pressing lightly on the chin bone. Slowly open your mouth, working against the resistance from your thumb.
  • Cross your arms across your chest with a hand on each shoulder. Stretch your neck backward, then to the right. Switch sides. 
  • Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and slowly open your jaw without moving your tongue.

If you’d like demonstrations or pointers on jaw exercises, please contact us!

Does TMD require surgery?

We’re committed to finding the right non-surgical options that work long-term and optimize your chewing system. More conservative, non-surgical options are engineered to reduce the pressure on the TMJ, alleviate pain, and promote regular activity. Surgery is often the last line of defense and is very rarely needed for TMD. 

How long do I have to wear my TMD bite splint for?

While every patient undergoes an individually-tailored TMD treatment, generally, bite splints shouldn’t be worn for more than six months. Overuse of a bite splint can lead to other issues. We may recommend wearing your bite splint only at night or all the time. All TMD treatment varies due to the severity of symptoms as well as the alignment of your jaw. 

Why do some dentists condone neuromuscular dentistry while others don’t?

The American Dental Association currently does not recognize neuromuscular dentistry. Even though there is research that suggests a promising potential for TMD sufferers, there is not enough data to prove the efficacy of this treatment. 

Does dental insurance cover TMD?

In our experience, dental insurance does not cover the cost of TMD diagnosis or treatment. Medical insurance may cover a portion of your care. Speaking to your dentist about insurance coverage prior to treatment can help give you a more definitive answer on your coverage. 

After completing TMJ treatment, can TMD return?

Your jaw joints are constantly moving and under stress, making it possible for the condition to return. There are preventative measures that can be taken to lower your risk of experiencing TMD again. Your dentist can always treat recurring systems with similar, conservative methods. 

What preventative measures can be taken to lower the risk of TMD?

Being conscious of high-risk activity that contributes to TMD is important. Understanding that clenching your jaw, grinding teeth, chronic gum chewing, resting your chin in your hand, poor posture, yawning too wide, and chewing on ice or pens can all contribute to TMD. Lowering these behaviors can help prevent TMD. Many TMD patients suffer from anxiety and stress which lead to jaw clenching and teeth grinding– properly addressing your stress and anxiety can be beneficial for overall and TMJ health. 

Can orthodontic patients wearing braces receive TMD treatment?

Yes, some cases allow a combination of braces and bite splints for faster treatment. We will always find adaptive treatments that assist in TMD relief during your orthodontic course. 

Can a snore guard or sleep apnea splint double as a bite splint for TMD?

In some cases, snore guards and sleep apnea splints can help relieve the symptoms of TMD. It is important to never try to attempt to treat TMD yourself. In other cases, sleep apnea splints actually worsen TMD. Always speak to your dentist or doctor regarding all health conditions and medical devices. 

Can children be diagnosed with TMD?

While TMD is more common among patients in their 20s to 40s, children can develop TMD. Making sure your child regularly goes to biannual dental exams can ensure TMD is diagnosed properly. 

Can dentures lead to TMD?

Yes, poorly-fitted dentures can frequently cause jaw pain as well as TMD. When patients wear dentures that are too loose, they consistently try to realign them which results in significant strain on their TMJs. Dentures can also add to chewing times, adding more work to TMJs. 

Chewing System

Everyone has a complex chewing system that’s made up of numerous working parts. Whenever one part is impacted, the entire system also experiences significant symptoms. Ensuring your chewing stable is stable and properly aligned can make all the difference in your long-term oral health. Gallagher Dentistry & Facial Pain Center proactively examines your chewing system health during each biannual visit and is happy to schedule appointments for in-depth oral examinations for patients with chewing system concerns. 

The Dangers of Having an Unstable Chewing System for Eden Prairie Patients

Having an unstable chewing system can mean numerous things, from your jaws being misaligned to movement of teeth that have caused an improper bite. Regardless of what has caused your chewing system to be unstable, leaving this condition untreated can lead to significant oral health implications. 

The top three reasons for people losing their teeth are dental decay, gum disease, and an unstable chewing system. When your chewing system is compromised, your teeth don’t fit together properly, chewing muscles are stressed, and everyday function is impacted. If left unaddressed, an unstable chewing system can lead to excessive tooth wear, cracked or loose teeth, sensitive teeth, TMJ disorders, and even early tooth loss. 

Unfortunately, an unstable chewing system can become overlooked and become a “silent” oral disease that many disregards as part of the aging process or natural deterioration. Without proper treatment, permanent damage can occur to any part of your complex chewing system leading to significant costs, treatment, and discomfort. An unstable chewing system is comparable to a misaligned set of tires– they experience wear-and-tear much quicker and do not perform optimally. 

How Do I Know If I Have an Unstable Chewing System?

An unstable chewing system can lead to a wide scope of symptoms. Eden Prairie patients suffering from an unstable chewing system can experience: 

  • Facial pain 
  • Worn, chipped, cracked, broken, or missing teeth
  • Teeth that are sensitive to hot, cold, and/or chewing
  • Required multiple root canals
  • Loose teeth
  • Jaw clenching and/or teeth grinding
  • Abfractions or wedge-shaped notches in the teeth at the gum line
  • Gum recession
  • Severe localized bone loss around teeth
  • Pain in teeth and/or TMJs when chewing
  • Headaches
  • Teeth or dental work that fractures or break

Patients with an unstable chewing system may experience one or more of these symptoms. On your back teeth, there are cusps and fossae which may resemble points and valleys. In a healthy, stable bite, the cusps of your back teeth should fit tightly into the fossae of your opposing teeth when your TMJs are completely in their socket. This stable fit is the least stressful and destructive bite relationship for all working parts of your chewing system including teeth, gums, bones, TMJs, facial muscles, and any existing dental work. Since the human bite is designed to generate forces that measure up to 900 lbs per square inch, an improper bite can significantly impact each component of your chewing system drastically leading to permanent damage. 

A healthy bite isn’t just composed of properly fitted teeth, it also implies a proper amount of upper teeth overlap over the lower front teeth in order to guide our side to side chewing motion. Your front teeth defend your back teeth by reducing any excess stress during chewing activities. When your front teeth aren’t aligned properly or have significant wear, they are unable to perform this crucial function, leading to considerable damage of the front and back teeth, bone, bums, TMJs, and jaw muscles. 

A great way to demonstrate this protective feature of properly overlapped front teeth is by placing your hand on the side of your jaw and clenching fully on your back teeth. Can you feel how forceful your muscles are when they contract? Assuming your upper and lower back teeth can separate from each other when your front teeth are edge-to-edge or canine-to-canine, try clenching with just your front teeth or canines. Can you feel the reduction in force created by your muscles? 

How Is an Unstable Bite Treated?  

In order to minimize long-term damage, reduce dental expenses, and really optimize your oral health, an unstable bite must be treated. We recommend making an appointment for a detailed evaluation of the stability of your bite. Gallagher Dentistry & Facial Pain Center will always alert you during your biannual exams if we have any concerns regarding your bite. 

If you are experiencing one or more of the listed symptoms, the detailed evaluation is a great first step in order to find the right treatment. This includes mounted study models, digital imaging, as well as detailed records regarding your current condition. Bite splint therapy and other oral devices are common ways to relax overworked chewing muscles, allowing your TMJ to properly function and remedy any TMD issues. Once your jaw joint is properly seated back into your socket, a better diagnosis can be made regarding how your upper and lower teeth fit together. Our team will find the best treatment approach with custom oral appliances to properly address your unstable bite. In certain cases, orthodontics may be used to treat this condition. 

For more information about getting relief from your facial pain symptoms, please contact Gallagher Dentistry & Facial Pain Center at 952-942-9600.

Schedule Your TMJ Care Appointment Today

Gallagher Dentistry & Facial Pain Center specializes in TMJ care and is looking forward to providing you with the personalized treatment that you need. Contact us today to schedule your first appointment! 

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