The cause of Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) problems is often multi-factoral – but frequently due to overloading of the jaw and chewing muscles, or abnormal loading of the jaw through teeth grinding or clenching.
Muscle, or cartilage problems can hinder jaw movement but not neccessarily be TMJ. They normally fall into an area known as Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD) and can be complex in origin.
A toothache, headache, or tinnitus could be symptomatic, or separate, a knock to your face, or tooth grinding can be relevant. An accurate diagnosis is critical to successful treatment.
Your maxillofacial consultant will carry out a detailed oral examination. Panoramic x-rays, or other specialist imaging techniques may be helpful, to define the detail of your jaw, joints and soft tissues.
Understanding your medical history, perhaps family medical history can be important. Along with assessing issues such as mouth sores, gum disease, sinus function, or unexplained toothache.
Previous trauma to the face, or jaw will be discussed, including any specific incidents, such as biting hard, or unusually wide mouth opening. Your jaw joints can be examined for pain, clicking, popping, or grating, your bite and facial muscle function analysed.
Jaw problems can create stress, tension, headaches, or shoulder pain. Symptoms which deserve investigation in their own right, although they are quite common in relation to TMJ disorders.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
The temporomandibular is a small joint by the front of the ear, where the lower jaw and skull meet, which allows your lower jaw to move.
Although the joint itself can be an issue, the cartilage, which acts as a cushion between parts of the joint, can cause malfunction. As can surrounding muscles and ligaments, which assist the joint.
Your examination, imaging (where carried out), and your consultant’s experience will help to create a precise treatment plan. The ethos of the clinic is to minimise the need for surgery and therefore we manage most TMJ symptoms conservatively. Relaxation techniques can often assist, also dietary changes, or physiotherapy on the jaw joint.
Stopping jaw clenching, grinding, or nail biting can solve the problem. A clear plastic splint is available to fit over your teeth, worn mainly at night, to support the temporomandibular joints and decrease grinding, or pressure.
A procedure called occlusal equilibration can be used. Quite gentle reshaping of the biting surfaces of individual teeth, to create a more even bite. Other dental work can achieve bite balance, such as replacement of missing teeth.
Antidepressant medication may be assistive, not simply because stress, or psychological factors could be involved. This type of medication has a muscle relaxing and pain killing effect.
Surgery is available but only suits a small proportion of cases. The surgery can simply be steroid injections into the joint, washing the joint out with sterile fluid, removing tissue adhesion bands, or dislodging a cartilage disc which is stuck.
Significant open joint surgery is even rarer. Only likely if bones within the jaw joint are notably deteriorating, a tumour is found to be a cause, or severe scarring, or bone chips lay inside the joint.
Your consultant will advise on procedure if surgery is needed, although open joint surgery in particular brings a greater healing time and a possibility of nerve injury. Surgery would be in expert hands but other approaches may offer a solution.
Care At Our London Clinic
Seeing a leading maxillofacial consultant is a sound first step. There may be causal, symptomatic, or separate oral conditions to be addressed. These can be accurately diagnosed and treated.
A complete range of possible jaw conditions will have been considered where your case requires this, to ensure sound treatment planning.
Where a temporomandibular joint disorder is the primary issue, you will receive excellent care, with treatment focused on minimum intervention for maximum, long term effect.
We appreciate the loss of function and pain TMJ disorders can bring. Issues are not often confined to the jaw itself, discomfort can be wider and core functions such as eating, or speaking are affected.
Good oral function is an essential part of a healthy, pleasant life. If our London clinic can help, please get in touch at a time to suit.