TMJ Treatment in Townsville
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ, also referred to as the jaw joint) are the two joints on each side of your jaw. They connect your upper and lower jaws and work together to move your jaw when you open and close your mouth, chew and grind your teeth.
Muscles and ligaments work together to make your jaw move, and a disc and joint capsule cushions the movements of the jaw against the bones of the skull. Your jaw joints can also affect the position of your teeth.
The TMJs and their muscles and ligaments are subject to the same types of injury and pathology as other joints in your body. They can be injured by trauma or overuse, become inflamed, degenerate and be damaged by systemic disease. These conditions can cause pain in the joints, muscles and ligaments or make it difficult to move your jaw normally.
There’s no single cause for TMJ dysfunction (TMJD). When you make an appointment at our Townsville clinic, we’ll ask you questions and assess your jaw to try to determine the likely cause, but it can often be a range of factors.
These can include:
- dislocation, injury or trauma to your jaw
- crooked teeth or a misaligned bite
- family history of TMJD
- arthritis conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- connective tissue disorders
- feeling stressed
- grinding or clenching your teeth (bruxism).
One common reason the jaw joints can get overused and injured is if you have the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth (called bruxism). This usually happens at night during sleep, but it can also happen in the daytime in response to stress, anger or concentration.
As well as putting strain on your jaw joints, bruxism can also damage your teeth by wearing them down over time and causing them to weaken. If you’re diagnosed with bruxism, we may prescribe a mouthguard for you to wear at night.
TMJ disorders can have a range of symptoms. You should talk to your dentist if you notice any of the following signs:
- clicking, grinding or popping sounds from your jaw
- aches or tenderness in your jaw, jaw joints, ears or face
- difficulty or discomfort when moving your mouth
- locking of the jaw
- tooth pain or worn-down teeth if you have bruxism.
Our dentists in Townsville are experienced in diagnosing TMJD, whether it’s caused by an oral health issue or something else. We’ll ask you questions to help us understand what you’re experiencing, such as how long you’ve had the symptoms and whether you’re currently taking any medication.
We’ll examine your teeth and any dental work such as fillings or crowns to check for signs of teeth grinding. We’ll also ask you to perform a range of motions with your jaw while we check for any unusual movements or sounds and try to locate the sources of pain and discomfort.
We’ll also take images of your jaw and head, which may involve the use of x-rays as well as a CT scan. These may reveal any physical damage or changes to your joints, muscles, ligaments and discs, but not in all cases.
If we diagnose you with TMJ dysfunction, we’ll recommend treatments based on what’s causing the condition. A TMJD treatment program can sometimes involve a range of therapies across different categories, including:
Mild TMJD often goes away on its own, but we can still help you to manage the symptoms so you don’t feel pain and discomfort during your recovery. We may prescribe pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication or muscle relaxants to ease the strain on your joints.
If you have a physical problem with your TMJ or jaw, we can recommend home remedies such as applying heat and ice and exercises to stretch and relax your jaw. We may also refer you to a qualified health practitioner for ultrasound treatment and other physical therapies.
You should avoid activities that involve opening your jaw wide, such as singing or shouting. If you need to yawn, support your chin with your hand to keep your mouth from opening too wide. Sleeping on your back rather than your stomach can also help ease TMJ symptoms.
We’ll recommend that you avoid any food that puts strain on your jaw, particularly hard, chewy and crunchy foods. You should avoid chewing gum while you have TMJ dysfunction and cut large food items into smaller pieces.
If your TMJD or bruxism may be caused by stress, we’ll recommend trying to avoid stressful situations and keeping calm. We can suggest counselling or meditation services if you’re open to these options.
If your TMJD is related to teeth grinding, this should be the focus of your treatment. If you tend to grind your teeth during the day, we’ll recommend identifying the situations when this happens so you can try to avoid it. If you grind your teeth at night, we’ll recommend an occlusal splint.
An occlusal splint is a type of custom-fitted mouthguard that’s designed to prevent your teeth from coming into contact. By wearing the splint every night, you may be able to train your jaw not to grind or clench and your TMJD symptoms should ease.
If you have more severe TMJD, the joint may need to be operated on directly. This may be carried out using arthroscopy or open joint surgery. Joint surgery involves higher risks than other TMJ treatments, but it may be the only option in some cases if other treatments are not effective at resolving the problem.