What Can Cause TMD and Can a Dentist Help Me?

Posted on Friday, September 8th, 2023 | 222 views

Headache from TMDTemporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is a common problem that affects millions of people worldwide, and certain dentists can provide treatments for it.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jawbone to your skull and allows you to open and close your mouth, chew, and speak. TMD can be quite painful and can significantly affect your quality of life if it’s not treated.

In this article, we will discuss the various causes of TMD and how it might be linked to dental implants. Understanding the factors contributing to TMD will help you better manage and treat the condition.

Anatomy of the Temporomandibular Joint

The TMJ is a complex joint with a unique structure. It is the only joint in the body that consists of a hinge and a sliding motion, allowing your jaw to move smoothly in various directions.

The joint is made up of the mandible (lower jawbone), the temporal bone (part of the skull), and a soft disc made of cartilage that sits between the bones to cushion and support their movement. This intricate design makes the TMJ susceptible to various problems, leading to TMD.

Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of TMD. Some of the most common causes include:

  1. Trauma: A direct injury to the jaw, head, or neck can lead to TMJ dysfunction. Accidents, sports injuries, or a forceful dental procedure can cause damage to the joint, leading to TMD.
  2. Arthritis: Inflammation in the joint can result from various types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion in the TMJ.
  3. Bruxism: Habitual grinding or clenching of the teeth – especially during sleep – can cause excessive stress on the TMJ, leading to TMD. Bruxism can also cause excessive tooth wear and lead to teeth sensitivity and an array of other dental problems.
  4. Sleep Apnea: There is a triad link between sleep apnea, bruxism and TMD. People who do have sleep apnea often posture their lower jaw forward at night which can cause stress on the TMJs. This in turn can lead to TMD developing.
  5. Malocclusion (Bad Bite): An improper bite or misaligned teeth can cause uneven pressure on the TMJ, and over time lead to joint strain and TMD.
  6. Muscle tension: Stress and anxiety can lead to muscle tension, particularly in the muscles surrounding the TMJ. This tension can cause discomfort and contribute to TMD.

Dental Implants and TMD

Dental implants are a popular and effective solution for replacing missing teeth but in some cases they can be linked to TMD. symptoms This tends to happen if the implants were not placed correctly and also leads to uneven pressure on the Temporomandibular joint which causes stress on the jaw.

When placed correctly, implants can substantially alleviate the symptoms of TMD, especially if any missing teeth are contributing to an imbalanced bite or uneven pressure on the jaw joint.

Replacing missing teeth with implants can also help restore a balanced and functional bite. By re-establishing proper occlusion (the way your teeth fit together when you bite), implants can reduce the strain on the TMJ and alleviate TMD-related discomfort.

Implants Minimize the Risk of TMD

A dental surgeon that specializes in dental implants can examine your current placements and ensure proper placement, and minimize the risk of TMD-related complications.

Diagnosis and Treatment of TMD

Diagnosis

Your dentist will be able to diagnose and treat TMD. First a comprehensive examination and evaluation of your medical and dental history are required, and from the an appropriate treatment plan is put in place.

Treatment

Treatment for TMD varies depending on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause. Some common treatment options for TMD include:

  1. Medications: over the counter or prescription pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxers help alleviate TMD-related pain and discomfort and help you relax your jaw muscles.
  2. Physical therapy: certain exercises and stretches that target the TMJ join help improve mobility and reduce pain and inflammation.
  3. Oral appliances: custom-made dental splints or night guards gradually reposition the jaw and start to alleviate pressure on the TMJ joint. They also prevent teeth grinding or clenching.
  4. Lifestyle modifications: reducing stress, relaxing more, and being mindful while eating hard and chewy foods will minimize TMD symptoms.
  5. Dental treatments: correcting malocclusion or using implants to replace missing teeth can help restore the balance in the bite and reduce strain on the TMJ joint.
  6. Surgical intervention: in severe cases and when conservative treatments are not reducing TMD symptoms, surgical options should be considered. These treatments can include arthroscopy, joint replacement, or open joint surgery. Surgery is always the last resort and is reserved for patients with significant joint damage or extreme pain.
  7. Full Mouth Rehabilitation: For some patients, TMD symptoms are the result of more complex oral health issue that may involve decayed, damaged, or missing teeth, missing bone and problems with bite alignment too. In these cases, a Full Mouth Rehabilitation approach offers comprehensive solutions that will solve multiple oral problems at the same time.

Ways to Prevent or Mitigate TMD

Not all cases of TMD can be treated without a dentist, but there are several ways you can reduce your risk of getting it and maintain the overall health of your jaw:

  1. Maintain proper oral hygiene: regular dental check-ups and cleanings can help identify and address potential issues that may contribute to TMD. At home make sure to floss regularly, and brush at least twice a day. 
  2. Try to maintain a balanced bite: correcting malocclusion and replacing missing teeth can help maintain a balanced bite and prevent strain on the TMJ. 
  3. Remember to manage stress: regularly practice relaxation techniques and find different ways to cope with any stress you encounter during the day. Also observe your bite patterns during stressful times and consciously avoid clenching.
  4. Avoid excessive jaw strain: limit gum chewing, eat softer foods, avoid wide-mouthed yawns and be continually mindful of the strain you may be putting on your jaw.
  5. Be aware of teeth grinding or clenching: if you find you are regularly grinding or clenching your teeth, make an appointment with your dentist and from there you’ll be able to find out what your options are.

What Should I Do Now?

Because Temporomandibular joint disorders are painful and affect quality of life, having it treated as soon as possible is the only way it’s going to be resolved. Talking to a dentist that specializes in identifying and treating the TMD will get you on your way to getting the proper treatment and help you enjoy life again.

If you live in Brantford and suspect you have TMD related issues, Dr. Pio Modi DDS, BSc is one consultation away. By taking proactive steps to maintain the health of your TMJ joint, you will start to enjoy a more comfortable, and pain-free life.

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