TMJ is an abbreviation for the jaw joint, called the temporomandibular joint. Two temporomandibular joints, one on each side, connect the lower jaw (the mandible), to temporal bones of the skull. Between these two bones is a thin cartilagenous disc which acts to cushion the bones when the muscles open and close the lower jaw during chewing, talking and swallowing. When the lower jaw is centered in its most stable position, the muscles are relaxed and all the teeth touch together at the same time. This harmony allows the joints, muscles and teeth to be protected during chewing function.
When the chewing system is out of balance, caused either by a misaligned bite, trauma, dental work, or artificial tooth movement (orthodontic treatment), the joints must be pulled by the muscles away from their ideal, stable biologic position to make the teeth fit together. Early on, the jaw joints may be able to adapt to this position without any joint or muscle pain or visible damage to the teeth. Over time, however, this biomechanical and physiologic imbalance may result in severe damage to the chewing system, leading to a wide range of symptoms known collectively as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) or TMJ dysfunction.
When the teeth do not fit together properly and TM joints are unstable, the chewing system begins to breakdown, causing the teeth, bone, muscles, joints and face to age prematurely. As with any chronic diseases, TMJ dysfunction may take years for a person to develop and become aware of its damaging effects. Many people suffer from headaches, neck pain and jaw joint problems associated with an improper bite relationship of their teeth, but never make the connection because the symptoms seem unrelated to a bite problem. There are many more people, however, who experience no pain and are thus often unaware of the progressive damage their teeth, joint and muscles are suffering because of their TMJ dysfunction.
Bioesthetic Dentistry focuses on diagnosing TMJ dysfunction as early as possible and restoring harmony to the chewing system by correcting the causes of tooth wear, joint imbalance and muscle pain, rather than just treating symptoms.
If you have any of the common complaints listed below, Bioesthetic Dentistry may be of help to you:
- Unattractive smile
- Worn, chipped, cracked or broken teeth and dental work
- Painful facial or neck muscles
- Upper back or shoulder pain
- Jaw joint soreness or pain
- Headaches or migraines
- Difficulty or pain with chewing
- Grinding or clenching of the teeth
- Jaw popping or clicking or grating noises
- Loose teeth or receding gums and bone
- Shifting bite
- Ear pain, congestion or ringing in the ears