TMJ Treatment

Orthodontic Treatments for Common Disorders of the Jaw in the Wollongong & Campbelltown, NSW Areas!

The jaw joint is also known as the ‘temporomandibular joint’, known for short as the ‘TMJ’. It can be felt by placing your fingers just in front of your ears, and opening and closing your mouth. The joint allows the jaw to open, close and move to the side and forward. It plays an important role in jaw functions such as talking, chewing and yawning. It is one of the most complex and frequently used joints in the body.

A TMJ disorder may affect one or both joints, often causing pain and limiting jaw function. Symptoms usually arise in early adulthood but children and the elderly can also be affected.

TMJ disorders are common, with about 7 in 10 people being affected at some time in their lives.
Although about 1 person in 4 is aware of the symptoms or reports them to a dentist or medical practitioner, only 5 people in every 100 seek treatment. Most symptoms of TMJ disorders or pain are mild and do not need treatment. As with pain in other joints of the body, symptoms often go away with time.

If you are noticing any of these symptoms or are seeking other orthodontic treatments, give All Orthodontics a call today and we'll work with you to set up an appointment!
Causes and Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

Disorders of the TMJ can be caused in a variety of ways, including: 

• Missing teeth • Grinding or clenching teeth, which may be linked to stress 
• Emotional or physical stress, and tension in the jaw muscles 
• Injuries such as fractures or dislocations of the TMJ
• Degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
• Wrongly shaped dental fillings, crowns or bridges

In some people, the cause of their TMJ disorder is difficult to diagnose and may include several of the above factors. In different people, TMJ disorders can cause different symptoms, which may vary from mild discomfort to severe pain. For example, pain may be sharp, searing and intermittent, or dull and constant.

Symptoms may include: 

• Limited jaw movement • Difficulty in opening the mouth • A stuck or ‘locked’ jaw
• Clicking, grating or popping noises from the jaw joints 
• Pain when chewing, yawning or opening the jaw widely • Pain in or around the ears and cheeks 
• Headaches and occasionally, migraine-like headaches and nausea 
• Earaches, loss of hearing or ringing in the ears • Face, neck, back and shoulder pain 
• A feeling of muscle spasms • Toothache • Clenching and grinding of teeth 
• An uncomfortable bite or ‘occlusion’ (that is, the contact of the teeth in the upper and lower jaws as they meet during chewing or when the jaws are closed)

Diagnosis of TMJ Disorders

An accurate diagnosis is very important to ensure that the right treatment is undertaken. Before starting treatment, Dr Van Vuuren will make a diagnosis based on a clinical examination and your medical and dental history.

TMJ Treatment Methods

TMJ disorders are best treated ‘conservatively’, that is cautiously, using treatment methods that do not have any permanent effect on the teeth and jaw joint. As TMJ disorders are often temporary, simple treatment methods are used whenever possible to help reduce symptoms and restore jaw function. Relief from symptoms may take time, particularly if the TMJ disorder has developed over a long period.

Your dentists will involve you in preparing a treatment plan and may call upon other healthcare professionals, if necessary. A well-designed treatment plan may address both physical and emotional factors.
Effective treatment should:

• Lessen or relieve your pain • Restore your jaw function • Minimise any noises from your jaw joint
• Enable you to carry out your normal daily activities

In some people, the treatment plan may take several months to be effective.

For best results, follow your treatment plan carefully. It may include some or all of the following treatments.

Occlusal appliance therapy
Occlusal splints (also known as bite plates) may be used to take pressure off the jaw joints and teeth. Custom made by your dentist, they must be adjusted regularly and monitored for some months to help relieve pain.

Modified diet
To minimise chewing and rest the jaw, eat only soft foods. When a small amount of chewing is necessary, try to chew on both sides of the mouth. Do not favour one side.

Avoid extreme jaw movement
Exercises, massage, gentle movement and muscle stretching can be effective in reducing pain and stiffness, and increasing strength and mobility.

Warm or cold packs
Muscle relaxation can be achieved by applying warm or cold packs to tender areas.

Relaxation and stress management
Learn how to relax and lessen stress. This can reduce tension in the jaw joint. Dr Van Vuuren may recommend a stress management program.

In some cases, Dr Van Vuuren may recommend short-term medication to help relieve symptoms and assist other treatment methods. Dr Van Vuuren may prescribe a painkiller, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety agent, anti-depressant, sedative or muscle relaxant. Take medication only as directed.
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