TMJ Treatment Experts
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the jaw joint located in front of the ear. Some individuals suffer from TMJ issues where there is a clicking or displacement of the two meeting jawbones.
Dr. Garry Smith is a TMJ specialist and his dental practice offers coordinated care with patients’ other medical providers including chiropractors.
TMJ – What Is It?
The ear and the jaw joint are joined to each other in front of the ear and below the ear lobe.
Dental patients can the jaw joint move by placing a finger in front of the ear and moving your jaw from side to side or by opening it. The movement can also be felt inside the ear canal.
Before birth, the small ear bones, which conduct sound, grow off from the jaw bone and migrate into the ear canal. There are ligaments and nerves which connect the ear and jaw.
As a result, jaw problems (TMJ) can cause ear problems and ear problems in return may cause jaw problems. Sometimes it is necessary for the patient to have both an ear and jaw examination to determine if they have TMJ.
The jaw joints, the lower jawbones, and the facial bones, gradually change shape and size throughout a person’s lifetime. The degree varies with each person.
Abnormal Growth Causing TMJ
These changes occur more rapidly if there are growth abnormalities, injuries, or diseases. Any change can cause the fit of the teeth to shift slightly.
If a person feels that his teeth do not fit together properly it is usually not due to tooth movement but rather to changes, which have occurred in the TMJ, jawbones and face bones. Some of these changes are transient and some are permanent.
Usually, changes in jaws and bite occur so gradually they aren’t noticed on a daily basis until a person experiences TMJ pain due to mismatched or clicking joints.
The gradual changes cause facial changes and make some people look older than others. You, too, can see the effects of these changes by observing your parents or older family members or friends.
Orthopedic surgeons, and medical doctors specialize in joints in the body, but dentists specialize in TMJ joints and challenges. TMJ can cause teeth to not fit together properly or jaw joints to malfunction. The lower jaw is like a door which has hinges and a door jam.
If the door jam is not properly positioned, or is inadequate to stop the door correctly, the hinges will be damaged. The hinges will be twisted or pulled slightly out of place every time the door is shut.
Dr. Garry Smith
Dental Problems Causing TMJ
Likewise, if a person has missing teeth, worn out crowns, bridges or dentures, or if the teeth are out of alignment or crooked, the chance of TMJ problems increases.
Some types of malocclusion, such as severe overbite, nearly always seem to result in damage to the jaw joints. Likewise, there are certain combinations of missing jaw teeth, which also seem to result in damage to the jaw joints.
If a person has a diseased or displaced jaw joint and has surgery to correct the defect the surgery will likely fail if the teeth are not stable and properly aligned.
TMJ and Stress
Stress of any type affects jaw function. This is a well known fact.
Even in ancient literature we read:
“There shall be wailing and gnashing of the teeth.”
More recently, writings, include “He set his jaw and went forward to do what he had to do” – or – “He bit the bullet.”
There are many types of stress that can cause TMJ including physical, emotional or bad habits of movements. Physical stress occurs as result of a person being involved in too many activities. Consequently, sometimes jaw problems seem to get worse because of the physical stress of simply doing too much or stress.
Anxiety occurs when a patient becomes acutely frustrated due to unsolved issues such as their child being ill, a doctor cannot be reached or home issues. The smallest daily thing can cause anxiety as our lives are busy and that anxiety feeds us clinching our jaws without even noticing and it can last for years.
Conflicts and Other Stresses That Cause TMJ
Unresolved conflicts can be as serious as trying to quit smoking or attempting to buy clothes or apply to school, pay bills or the break off of a relationship. Discuss your stress with your dentist.
Dr. Garry Smith of Smith Family Dentistry in Fishers and Anderson discusses patients’ lives with them before treating TMJ. Some TMJ solutions involved dental appliances as well as resolutions within a patient’s own personal struggle(s).
Therefore, management and control of stress is often an important part of successful treatment.