Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as “TMD” or “TMJ,” is a range of disorders associated with the joints that hold our lower jaw into position.
TMJ problems can be associated with a variety of dental concerns, including jaw pain, headaches, clicking and popping, grinding and/or clenching, and broken or worn teeth.
Grinding and Clenching
In many cases, the first step in preventing future TMJ problems can be as simple as controlling clenching and grinding. Most individuals clench and grind their teeth to a certain degree while sleeping, and some also find they clench and grind during stressful periods during the day.
Uncontrolled clenching and grinding can wear down the protective layer of your teeth known as enamel; this can lead to extreme temperature sensitivity or the development of cavities in areas of wear. Grinding and clenching can also cause fracture lines to develop within teeth and can ultimately lead to teeth breakage, which can require expensive treatments or tooth removal to fix.
In severe cases, extremely worn down teeth can become very short and completely alter the way your face appears; these cases require extensive and costly intervention to bring teeth back to a more ideal length.
Jaw Pain and Headaches
Not only is the act of clenching and grinding harmful to your teeth, but it can also cause extreme fatigue in the muscles of your face, often presenting as soreness or chronic headaches. The action of clenching and grinding can also be extremely taxing on your jaw joints and may lead to clicking, popping, “lock jaw,” and a limited ability to open wide.
During routine dental exams, your teeth and TMJ will be evaluated to give some insight as to whether you may be clenching or grinding. Dr. Therese and her staff will ask questions regarding your habits and any symptoms you may be presenting with.
If it is suspected that you might be clenching and/or grinding your teeth, a custom night guard may be beneficial. Dr. Therese will carefully assess which of a variety of styles may be most beneficial for you, ranging from a traditional full arch appliance to a small guard that only covers the front teeth and is helpful in improving headaches.
In some cases, TMJ problems may be so advanced that they require treatment by a specialized dental professional. Dr. Therese will assess each patient individually, and if necessary, introduce you to a specialist who will provide advanced therapies to achieve TMJ health and stability.
If you have been experiencing jaw pain or frequent headaches or have been told you may be clenching or grinding your teeth, call our office now to set up an appointment and discuss your treatment options.