The truth about TMJ disorders and how we ease the pain for good

Persistent tension headaches. Radiating facial pain. Frequent earaches and tinnitus. What does this have to do with dentistry? While these symptoms may seem to have little to do with oral health, they can be rooted in the mouth. Notably, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders refer to abnormalities related to the joints that connect the lower jaw and the skull. At Simply Wellness Dental in East Vancouver, British Columbia, our highly-trained and experienced professionals in oral and maxillofacial anatomy and function will first evaluate the source of your troubling symptoms. From there, we will work with you to resolve the root cause. This approach provides real treatment, not just temporary “symptom relief.”

About the TMJ

There are temporomandibular joints on either side of your face. These jaw joints function as hinges. When they and their associated tissues and structures are in good working order, the “hinge” moves fluidly and seamlessly. It facilitates proper function, so you can chew food, speak, and open and close your mouth freely and without pain.

About  TMD

As noted, the TMJs do not exist in isolation. They depend on the health of the related muscles, ligaments, and other tissues for their function. When just one component of this well-oiled machine is damaged, inflamed, or injured, it can cause pain, affect mobility, and otherwise alter how your jaw feels and functions. This is commonly referred to as TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder).

Commonly, TMD may be caused by: 

  • Arthritis
  • Other degenerative conditions 
  • Head, neck, and jaw trauma or past injuries 
  • Displaced discs in the joints 
  • Destructive behaviours, such as chronic teeth grinding (bruxism)

Stress, muscle tension, and habits like persistently chewing on ice or gum have also been implicated in the development or progression of TMDs and their range of symptoms.

What to do about it

Dentists like Drs Adi Nokiani, Ashleigh Sran, and Eric Quan are often on the front lines of detecting problems with the TMJs and related conditions such as bruxism. For instance, they may hear a characteristic click or pop sound when the mouth is opened or closed. Or, patients may come to us with complaints about jaw stiffness, frequent locking, or pain that seems to radiate through their face and jaw to their neck, shoulder, ears, and back. Additionally, they may notice excessive wear on the teeth or premature damage to dental work like crowns. These are all potential signs of TMD and bruxism. Persistent teeth grinding plays a role in TMD symptoms because of the stress that is placed on the joints and surrounding tissues due to this behaviour.

Our recommendations depend on what we find following an exam and in consultation with you. So, interventions are highly personalized and often multi-faceted. They may include:

  • Oral appliance therapy, such as nightguards or splints to ease the pressure or force that is placed on the joints 
  • Techniques to help patients relax and better manage stress and ease muscle tension
  • Physical therapy or targeted exercises to strengthen the muscles 
  • Relaxation techniques to manage stress associated with bruxism and TMD
  • Modifications to chronic chewing of fingernails, ice, gum, and other hard objects

Simply Wellness Dental even offers Botox® to appropriate patients with TMD symptoms. By non-invasively and precisely introducing this muscle-relaxing treatment to the affected muscles, we can ease the contractions and tension that lead to pain and other debilitating symptoms. To learn more, call our East Vancouver, BC office today at (604) 229-5922. The symptoms of TMD can become worse or more frequent without treatment. So, it is vital to do something about it sooner rather than later, and we are here to help!