TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint. It’s a small, flexible bit of connective tissue that attaches the jaw to the skull. You have one on each side of your face. Between eating, speaking, and everything else you need your mouth for, these little joints do a whole lot of work.
Because of the location, the number of directions the joint can flex, and the number of things it’s used for, TMJs are extremely susceptible to stress and injury. These are known as temporomandibular disorders, or TMDs.
TMDs can result in anything from chewing trouble and muscle sensitivity to jaw popping, locked joints, and headaches.
Here is a brief list of some of the most common causes of TMDs.
Jaw misalignment—For a number of different reasons, the jaw can become misaligned. When this happens, the movement of the joint rubs and stresses in places it shouldn’t, resulting in some of the above-mentioned pain and jaw difficulty.
Bruxism—Bruxism is the name used to describe chronic teeth grinding and jaw clenching. This can happen completely unconsciously at night, or as a result of severe stress during the day. It can cause major strain to the TMJ, as well as wearing down the teeth.
Physical injury—The TMJ is right on the side of the face. Any kind of blunt trauma due to such things as car accidents or sporting events can easily injure this area.
Stress—Stress often knots up our muscles. We’re very aware of it in our shoulders and backs, but not so often in our jaw. The TMJ, however, is just as susceptible to this kind of stress as any other part of the body.
Here at Perkins Dental, we use two main forms of treatment for TMDs.
Botox helps TMDs in the same way it helps relax wrinkles and relieve migraine pain. It is specifically designed to inhibit the neurotransmitters sent from the brain to the TMJ. Without the brain telling it to tense up, it won’t be able to contract, thus giving it a chance to relax and heal without interruption.
Mouthguards also help in the healing process. If the pain comes from jaw misalignment, mouthguards can help keep the jaw in place while sleeping. If the problem is stress or bruxism, they actively prevent the teeth from grinding and the jaw from clenching too hard. This pressure relief allows the joint to rest.