Doc, I have TMJ!
As of recent, we have seen an increase painful TMJ issues amongst the patients that we care for at Pacific Spirit Dental Centre. Be it is work stress, school stress, or life stress causing clenching and grinding of the teeth, TMJ issues affect patients of all ages.
What is TMJ?
You have 2 of them! The temporomandibular joints are the hinges of your lower jaw. Just like any other joints, they can become inflamed, click, or lock. The likelihood pain is increased if the joints are constantly subjected to high or unbalanced forces. Imagine how quickly your knees, hip, and back would begin to hurt if you ran a marathon wearing only 1 shoe.
Where does the pain come from?
When your prosthodontist examines you for TMJ pain, we first try to distinguish whether the pain originates from the joint, the chewing muscles, or both. Muscle pain responds to treatment differently than true joint pain. The source of the pain guides how will manage it. Muscle pain may be managed with a combination of physiotherapy, habit training, and medications while joint pain may require orthotics and bite adjustment.
Do I need a brux guard (night guard/occlusal guard)?
A brux guard is one of the most popular 1st line treatments for many types of TMJ and jaw muscle pain. Think of them like an orthotic for your jaw, they help provide a level biting surface so that the high forces of clenching and tooth grinding can be directed to the teeth, muscles, and joints as evenly as possible. In many cases, this “evening out” of the forces is enough to provide relief.
Brux guards do 3 more things:
- Insulating the teeth from high forces and spread the forces of clenching out over multiple teeth. By distributing forces, individual teeth are protected from damage and pain.
- “Setting” the joint; when correctly designed by your prosthodontist, brux guards can help position your TMJ into a more neutral and relaxed position.
- Habit awareness; wearing a new appliance alone can be enough to trigger subconscious awareness of clenching and grinding – even when sleeping. This awareness alone can be enough to reduce the amount and strength of the grinding habit.
Temporomandibular disorders can be challenging to treat, often requiring a time and experimentation with multiple treatment modalities. Anyone who has experienced lower back pain or a sports injury can relate. We have found that with keen eyes and ears, forming an accurate diagnosis from the get go, we are able to successfully manage most of our patient’s complex TMJ issues.