A true TMJ problem exists when there is clicking, grating, limited opening, and/or pain in one or both jaw joints. The most common causes are deep overbite, missing back teeth, incorrect bite, grinding your teeth and accidents involving a blow to the jaw. Most commonly a splint or grinding appliance can be used to “depressurize” and reposition the jaw joints and allow the time for internal joint healing to occur. It is unusual to have an adolescent with TMJ problems
The vast majority of TMJ patients are adults in the 20-50 age range. The major causes of TMJ dysfunction are accidents, crowded teeth, missing teeth, and a bad bite. Regardless of the causative factors, a corrective splint or bite appliance (also called grinding appliance) is required. It will require a custom made hard plastic appliance, not a flexible one as sold in pharmacies and sporting goods stores. Flexible ones will be “chewed” on and can cause the problem to get worse. The flexible appliances are only good for very short term relief until you can get to a dentist who treats TMJ problems. There are very few dentists trained in the treatment of true TMJ problems. We have been treating TMJ patients for 30 years, so we are well versed in all of the treatment modalities for TMJ problems.
If left untreated, the problem will get worse, it never gets better if it is a true TMJ problem. A grinding or bruxism problem is NOT a TMJ problem until the grinding problem has gone untreated for a time. So grinding and clenching problems, if treated, can be prevented from cause damage to the TMJ area.