Jaw Joint Problems

TMJ

A surprisingly large number of people suffer from headaches, face pain and jaw clicking which is often related to problems with the jaw joint. But you can now get relief with treatment here in Ipswich.

What problems can affect the jaw?

Various problems can cause jaw pain, clicking, spasm or stiffness. Older people may get pain as the jaw joint wears or with the onset of arthritis. Small bony growths can develop around the joint restricting its movement with the subsequent onset of pain. Jaw problems can also develop if the way your teeth come together or align changes for whatever reason e.g. a dislocation or multiple tooth removal. One of the most common problems affecting the jaw joint is called temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD), where the jaw joint does not open or close correctly.

Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD):

The medical name for the jaw joints are the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) – you have two of these joints in front of your ears where your lower jaw bone meets the skull. These joints, working in conjunction with the muscles and ligaments around them, allow you to flex your jaw up and down and from side to side. Problems with the joints or the surrounding muscles can result in temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) characterised by jaw pain, headaches, clicking and even jaw locking.

What causes TMD?

Some of the most common causes of TMD are:

  • Grinding or clenching the teeth (bruxism), especially at night
  • Biting your nails or holding objects between the teeth
  • Fatigue, stress or anxiety

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Your dentist will be able to diagnose your jaw problems by asking you about your symptoms and also by looking for wear and tear due to grinding. He or she will ask you to open and close your moth while feeling your jaw and muscles to check for tenderness. Thereafter, the appropriate treatment will be recommended depending on the type of jaw problem you have.

Treatment may range from changing your diet to reduce pain by eating softer foods, a series of physiotherapy activities to do at home or if stress is considered to be a root cause, counselling or therapy sessions. If your dentist considers that the jaw problem is resulting from tooth grinding or clenching, then you may be advised to wear a tooth splint or mouthguard at night. Very often, relatively simple treatments with relieve the symptoms of TMD but in some more complex and rare cases, surgery on the jaw joints may be required.