The temporomandibular joint is the joint which connects the lower jaw to the skull. If you place your fingertips against your face in front of the ears and move your jaw up and down, you can feel the movement of the Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ). These are similar to hinges and if the jaw is to perform properly, the upper and lower teeth must mesh properly when you close on the back teeth in a fixed or "normal" bite.

Patients with TMJ problems may have a problem with any aspect of the joint mechanism including the ligaments, muscles or the bone itself. Symptoms may include clicking or cracking near the ear, soreness of the jaw, severe pain in the joint area and headaches.

The causes may be external, internal or both.

External causes might be a blow to the face to jaw – for example, whiplash is common cause of externally produced trauma to the TMJ.

The most common internal produced trauma arises from occlusal disharmonies, commonly called "poor bite". Missing teeth which have not been replaced can also produce disharmonies. Stress is often a factor. People under emotional stress may unconsciously try to reduce tension by grinding the teeth at night (called "bruxing"). This creates abnormal wear and, subsequently, may interfere with alignment of the upper and lower teeth, resulting in bite problems

Poorly fitting dentures or worn down bridgework can also create occlusal disharmony.

If the problem is related to the occlusion then muscle spasms can occur in the Temporomandibular Joint area. These muscles are used whenever you chew, talk, swallow or otherwise move your jaw.

In more difficult cases, muscle relaxants may be used to ease the tension on the involved muscles.

Once the patient is comfortable enough for further treatment, we usually will make study casts to find out if and how far the teeth are out of alignment. We then may construct an appliance made of plastic for the patient to wear. The appliance frees the jaw motion from abnormal guidance by mal-positioned cusps of the teeth. The affected joints can then return to their normal position – and begin the healing process.

After this stage then more involved dentistry may be required to restore the bite to proper function and equilibrate the chewing forces.

To find out more please contact us at the clinic