TMJ and Neuromuscular Dentistry

Did you know that the jaw joints are the most dynamic joints of your body? These tiny joints, known as the temporomandibular joints, work like a hinge, allowing your jaw to move up and down, back and forth, and side to side. As you can imagine, these joints experience a lot of stress, wear and tear as you eat, chew, yawn and talk. This wear and tear can cause a very painful joint and muscle disorder known as temporomandibular disorder, or TMJD. This condition can be extremely painful and, if left untreated, can decrease your jaw function and your quality of life. 

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, more than 10 million Americans are affected by temporomandibular joint disorder.

What Causes TMJD? 

As we mentioned above, TMJD is a condition that affects the jaw and can develop due to wear and tear to the temporomandibular joints. The exact cause of a person’s TMJ disorder can often be challenging to pinpoint, but possible causes of the condition and risk factors include: 

  • Overuse
  • Age
  • Trauma, from a blow, accident or sports injury
  • An unbalanced bite caused by underdeveloped jaws and structural problems with the bite
  • Behaviors, such as tooth grinding or clenching (bruxism) caused by stress
  • Obstructive sleep apnea or other sleep disorders
  • Joint and muscle disorders and connective tissue disorders
  • Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and arthrocentesis

What Are the Symptoms of TMJD? 

In most cases, the most telltale sign of TMJ disorder is craniofacial pain and discomfort.

The symptoms of TMJD can be mild or intense. They can also be acute or chronic. In many cases, the signs of temporomandibular joint disorder start subtly and intensify over time. 

The most common signs and symptoms of temporomandibular disorder include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw 
  • Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
  • Aching pain in and around the ear or the feeling that your ear is full
  • Pain when chewing or difficulty chewing 
  • Muscle tension or muscle spasms
  • Frequent headaches or migraines
  • Chronic pain in the neck, neck tension
  • Back pain
  • Tingling in the arms and upper back
  • Poor posture
  • Locking of the joint and difficulty opening or closing your mouth

TMJ disorder can also cause a clicking, popping or grating noise when you yawn, chew, or open and close your mouth. Another effect of TMJD is myofascial pain syndrome or nerve pain in the face, triggered by TMJD and spasms in the chewing muscles surrounding the jaw joints. 

TMJD can cause loss of jaw function if left untreated. 

TMJD and Chronic Pain

Many people living with temporomandibular joint disorder also live with chronic pain and severe headaches. These painful symptoms are often misdiagnosed, which means ineffective treatment and more suffering for those in pain. 

Many patients with undiagnosed TMJD often go through years of misdiagnosis and multiple prescriptions to help control uncomfortable symptoms and headaches. Usually, the headaches caused by TMJD are diagnosed as migraines, but that is not always correct. 

Can TMJ Disorder Cause Headaches?

Yes! Since temporomandibular joint disorder can develop when one or both jaw joints function poorly, this dysfunction can negatively impact the muscles, nerves and blood vessels surrounding the jaw joints. When these tissues are affected, the trigeminal nerve, one of the head’s main nerves, can be stimulated, which can mean facial pain and often very intense headaches. These headaches are often misdiagnosed as migraines but are actually due to muscular tension. 

TMJD Treatment

Temporomandibular joint disorder symptoms are often temporary and can be relieved with conservative, nonsurgical treatments and self-care to bring pain relief. These self-care treatments include eating soft foods, relaxation techniques, physical therapy, pain relievers, trigger-point massage, cold laser therapy, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen. 

Depending on your case’s severity, and whether you’re experiencing persistent pain, surgical treatment may be the last resort after other temporomandibular treatment options have been explored and failed.  

We recommend, however, that you seek treatment for your temporomandibular joint disorder or jaw pain. Leaving the condition untreated could result in complete loss of use of your jaw and the need for surgery to repair your jaw joints. 

TMJ Disorder and Facial Growth Treatment

While self-care treatments can help relieve your temporomandibular joint disorder’s painful symptoms, in many cases, the relief is often just temporary. This is because most of these treatments aim to reduce the symptoms rather than eliminate the cause and bring permanent relief. One way to bring about long-lasting relief and give you back the quality of life you deserve is through facial growth treatment and jaw development orthodontics. 

How Can Facial Growth Treatment Help with TMJ Disorder?

As we mentioned above, the treatment for temporomandibular disorders often focuses on managing symptoms versus targeting the root cause of the issue. Facial growth treatment has helped to revolutionize TMJD treatment in the last decade because it focuses on the cause and not the side effects. 

Facial growth treatment works by addressing the bite issues that can cause stress on the jaw joints. Historically, TMJD treatment sought to correct bite issues by removing teeth or moving teeth that affect the bite’s balance. Instead of pulling teeth, facial growth treatment helps the jaw reach its full genetic potential by remodeling the jaw’s growth to help create more room in the mouth for the teeth and allow the lower teeth to meet the upper teeth in the correct position. 

When this happens, it allows for a balanced bite without extractions or moving the teeth with braces. This approach takes the pressure off of the temporomandibular joints, enabling them to function in the healthiest — and most pain-free — way.

To learn more about TMJD and neuromuscular dentistry, please contact our Miami neuromuscular dentists today to schedule your initial appointment. Miami Designer Smiles serves patients in Miami and Coral Gables, Florida. 

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  • LVI Training

    Dr. Garcia and Dr. Sanchez-Garcia have undergone extensive training at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies (LVI), the premier cosmetic and neuromuscular dentistry teaching facility in the nation. As a result, they have a thorough command of the most up-to-date techniques used to treat neuromuscular dentistry issues. This additional training ensures that you will receive the highest quality care with your neuromuscular treatments.

    Why Choose Miami Designer Smiles

    At Miami Designer Smiles, both our dentists have received training at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies, the premier school for neuromuscular dentistry. They understand how to diagnose TMJ, have the equipment to properly carry out the diagnosis, and can design successful treatment plans for your TMJ, which will resolve your symptoms, including your chronic headaches. To learn more about TMJ and neuromuscular dentistry related topics, please see TMD and Questions about TMJ Disorder. To learn more about Miami Designer Smiles or to schedule an appointment with one of our neuromuscular dentists, please contact us today.