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Tooth Grinding (Bruxism) Treatment

Temporomandibular Joint Pain (TMJ)

Where is the Temporomandibular Joint?
Temporomandibular joint or TMJ connects the jaw to the skull. The term TMJ is often used as a generic term to describe the dysfunctions of the joint and jaw muscles (the correct term is Temporomandibular dysfunction). The TMJ is seen by some to be one of the most important joints in the body because of its profound influence elsewhere; it is also one of the most complex joints in the body.

What causes Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD)?
Temporomandibular dysfunction, or TMD for short, is the discomfort or pain associated with the Temporomandibular joint and the muscles that move the lower jaw. TMD occurs for various reasons such as trauma to the head, whiplash injuries. TMD can also be triggered by stress or an event that the individual fails adapt to, for example strain of dental surgery, changes to the bite and loss of teeth.

How do I know if I have TMD and Pain?
Many symptoms have been described but the most common are pain or discomfort in area of the TMJ or in the face, head and neck. Clicks and grating, gravelly noises in the joints are also common as is an awareness of clenching and grinding. The pain can come from tension in the local muscles or from within the joints. The symptoms of TMD can be very debilitating and it is wise to seek professional help as soon as it is suspected.

Can TMD be treated?

TMD is treated in a number of ways depended on severity and the length of time since the symptoms started.

  • Explanation and reassurance:
    Most TMD is benign and will improve with non-invasive treatment. First line treatments therefore include anti-inflammatory medicine and other painkillers as well as muscle relaxants. Jaw exercises can also be used.
  • Patient education and self-care:
    This includes: limiting excessive mandibular (jaw) function by eating soft foods; avoiding wide yawning, singing and chewing gum; massaging affected muscles and applying heat; relaxation techniques; identifying and reducing life stresses.
  • Occlusal splints:
    These are also known as "bite guards" and their purpose is to relieve muscle tension and reduce compression of inflamed jaw joints. They are also used to confirm the diagnosis of TMD and to decide on the best means of further treatment.
  • Physiotherapy, Osteopathy, and TMJ surgery
    Occlusal splints can be successfully combined with investigation and treatment by other related medical fields in a multi-disciplinary approach.
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