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TMJ

Jaw Pain? TMJ Therapy Could be the Answer for You!

About TMJ

TMJ is the abbreviation of the term Temporomandibular Joint Disorder is the term used to label problems involving the hinging joints of the jaw and the associated muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and other tissues. The resulting pain is commonly referred to as TMJ. TMJ is the result of a condition known as bruxism. TMJ rarely results in severe problems for children. However, in adults it is directly or indirectly responsible for almost every dental problem not related to sugar or bacteria.

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about tmj & bruxism

What is Bruxism?
Bruxism refers to the grinding or clenching of teeth. It usually occurs during sleep. People who suffer from Bruxism are called “bruxers”. Bruxers may also bite their fingernails, pencils, or chew the inside of their cheek. Because bruxism most often occurs during sleep, bruxers are often not aware of the problem until signs occur. Signs of bruxism may include a flat appearance of the tips of the teeth, rubbed off tooth enamel, popping or clicking of the jaw or indentations on the tongue. A person with bruxism may wake up with tired or sore jaw muscles and headaches, and the teeth may become more sensitive. Bruxism is sometimes caused by stress. If your dental bite or teeth are misaligned, this can also be a factor. Bruxism is also more common in children of parents with the problem.

What are the long-term problems cause by Bruxism and TMJ?
Bruxism and TMJ can result in abnormal wear patterns of the in the teeth. Over time, dental damage will usually occur. If bruxism goes untreated, more serious injury can occur in the loss of tooth enamel, recessed gums, or damage to the jaw alignment. Typically done while sleeping, grinding can cause fractures in teeth, chipped or broken fillings, severe wear or shortening of the teeth, and TMJ pain TMJ is the leading cause of tooth enamel damage and a significant cause of tooth loss and gum recession. People with TMJ may also grind their back teeth, which will wear down the cusps of the occlusal surface. TMJ can be loud enough to wake a sleeping partner. Some individuals will clench the jaw without significant lateral movements. Teeth hollowed by previous decay or dental drilling, may collapse, as the cyclic pressure exerted by TMJ is extremely taxing on the tooth structure.

TMJ symptoms patients may present include:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress or Tension
  • Depression
  • Earache
  • Eating Disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Jaw Pain

Eventually, TMJ shortens and blunts the teeth being ground, and may lead to muscle pain and headaches. In severe, chronic cases, it can lead to arthritis of the temporomandibular joints. The jaw clenching that often accompanies TMJ can be an unconscious neuromuscular daytime activity, which should be treated as well.

Migraine Treatment
People who have migraine pain suffer a lot. Medical examinations often show, however, that they are otherwise perfectly healthy. A recent medical study indicates that people with chronic migraine pain and chronic headache pain often clench their jaws together in a balanced, centered position. This causes extremely intense muscular contraction, but little strain on the jaw. Nighttime jaw clenching usually goes unnoticed, but it sets the stage for migraine pain and chronic headache pain.

Dentists usually hear about intense jaw clenching when patients complain about TMJ, a very common and painful jaw disorder caused by clenching tightly in an off-centered, lopsided way while asleep. We typically will make a specialized mouthpiece that covers all of the teeth front and back to balance the bite for the TMJ sufferer. Unfortunately, this type of mouthpiece may also increase jaw-clenching intensity, and make the pain even worse.

It is vitally important to do a complete TMJ / headache exam to determine what type of mouthpiece is most appropriate.

Dr. Higgs now offers the NTI-tss device which has been shown to reduce clenching intensity by 66%. NTI is an acronym for “Nociceptive Trigeminal Inhibition” (reducing negative trigeminal input) and TSS for Tension Suppression Systems. The NTI-tss is a small, nearly invisible, removable device you wear while you’re sleeping.

Unlike the traditional mouthpiece with a flat surface, the NTI-tss device is a custom-fitted device that prevents the tooth surfaces from coming into intense contact. By eliminating high-intensity contact, you also eliminate high-intensity clenching, and the muscular irritation that leads to migraine pain, TMJ, and chronic headache pain.

What can be done about TMJ?
Depending on the amount of wear and fracturing, treatment for grinding can be as little as the fabrication of a nighttime prevention appliance, such as a full coverage night-guard or NTI-tss device if there is TMJ pain, to reconstructive dentistry including crowns and bridges to restore the mouth to proper form and function.

Dr. Higgs will take the time with you to determine what course of action is best for your situation.

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