tmj specialist sydney

TMJ Dysfunction – Your Questions Answered

At our practice we see many people who are impacted by TMJ Dysfunction. Some have been referred by their GP, some we diagnose during other procedures and some are aware of TMJ and contact us to treat them directly.

What is common is that there is a lack of awareness of TMJ in the community. Given over 70% of the population may have some form of TMJ Dysfunction, it is likely that many people are suffering TMJ symptoms yet going misdiagnosed or at the very least undiagnosed.

To assist we have compiled our TMJ Dysfunction frequently asked questions help you decide if perhaps it’s time to see a TMJ Specialist Dentist.

TMJ stands for the Temporomandibular Joint. This is where the lower jaw meets the skull. This joint is positioned just below each ear. It is the most frequently used joint in the body as it used when we chew, talk and swallow.

In between the lower jaw and the skull sits the articular disc. This is much like cartilage in the knee joint and allows the fluid movement of the jaw. TMJ Dysfunction occurs when this disc gets disrupted and pops in and out of position. This can be felt as a clicking or popping sensation in the jaw. This clicking and popping can lead to more serious symptoms or complications.

Apart from a clicking or popping jaw, a number of other issues stem from the articular disc being positioned incorrectly. These include:

  • Unable to have full movement of your jaw – meaning trouble opening and closing your mouth or teeth.
  • Tension headaches – like wearing a hat that is too small, caused by the pressure in the joint due to misalignment.
  • Sustained jaw or ear pain – due to the misalignment of the jaw nerves that run through this region can become irritated.
  • Neck and shoulder pain – when the jaw is misaligned, muscles in the neck and shoulders become disrupted and stressed resulting in pain
  • Tinnitus – Due to the position of the TMJ near the ear, a ringing in the ear (tinnitus) can be a result of TMJ Dysfunction.

It is believed up to 70% of the population have some form of TMJ Dysfunction. The Temporomandibular joint provides a wide range of movement and a number of short-term and long-term factors can lead to it becoming misaligned. Many people may only have mild or temporary discomfort. However, up to 12% of people are known to have ongoing or chronic pain which will only be relieved if the jaw is realigned properly and steps taken to prevent it becoming misaligned in future.

TMJ tends to be more common in people aged 20-40 years. Women also tend to have a higher incidence of TMJ which has been tied to hormones, including those that come with birth control. If you experience stress as a result of grinding your teeth you will also be more likely to cause TMJ dysfunction.

A number of underlying causes can relate in TMJ Dysfunction. These include:

  • Misaligned bite – If you have an over or underbite this may cause the TMJ to become misaligned. Your bite can be a combination of genetic and environmental issues.
  • Trauma – a blow to the jaw, accident or otherwise can put the jaw out of alignment leading to the TMJ to be disrupted and function improperly without treatment.
  • Grinding teeth – if you habitually grind your teeth your jaw muscles can become abnormally tense throwing out your TMJ
  • Stress – Stress can lead to tense muscles in the jaw, neck and back which can disrupt the TMJ. Stress also leads to grinding of teeth.

While TMJ Dysfunction is not life-threatening, it certainly impacts the quality of life. Persistent headaches and jaw, neck or ear pain can disrupt daily life and turn people towards pain relieving medication which has further health complications. TMJ can also be a leading indicator that you are stressed or grind your teeth. Getting on top of these issues early will prevent further health complications.

A dentist can provide an initial diagnosis and treatment for TMJ. Typically, a dentist with experience in neuromuscular dentistry and holistic dentistry is equipped to treat TMJ and, if necessary, work together with osteopath, chiro, physio, ENT, psychologist and maxillofacial surgeons.

While TMJ Dysfunction is not life-threatening, it certainly impacts the quality of life. Persistent headaches and jaw, neck or ear pain can disrupt daily life and turn people towards pain relieving medication which has further health complications. TMJ can also be a leading indicator that you are stressed or grind your teeth. Getting on top of these issues early will prevent further health complications.

Treatments for TMJ dysfunction include:

  • Occusal Splint or Orthotic – to prevent the impact of clenched teeth on the TMJ and relax the surrounding muscles to allow better alignment.
  • Neuromuscular dentistry – involves manipulation and realignment of the TMJ into a better position if it has become displaced.
  • Jaw exercises – to retrain the muscles in the jaw to behave differently and support jaw alignment.
  • Muscle relaxants – designed to release the pressure in the jaw region to allow easier TMJ realignment.
  • Surgery – used as a last resort to relocate the jaw in the correct position.

TMJ can be treated by first realigning the jaw in the correct position and then treating the physical and environment factors that led to the misalignment to begin with. Seeking treatment is important before TMJ issues get worse and have a broader impact on your well-being.

Dr Finkelstein is experienced in understanding and treating patients with TMJ Dysfunction. His thorough assessment of your jaw will help identify where the  cause of your symptoms are and endeavour to  implement an effective treatment plan.

If you think others will like this article, share the love

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print
Check out our latest articles
emergency dentist sydney
Emergency Dental
Dr Michael Finkelstein

Top 5 Signs of a Dental Emergency

What makes a dental emergency? Dr Finkelstein explains when you should call your dentist as soon as possible to avoid a more serious dental treatment.

tmj specialist sydney
Holistic Dentistry
Dr Michael Finkelstein

TMJ Dysfunction – Your Questions Answered

TMJ Dysfunction can cause jaw, neck and back pain, headaches and also tinnitus. Learn more about TMJ Dysfunction and treatment with these simple FAQ’s.

Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks.  Dr Finkelstein will explain these to you carefully at the time of your consultation as well as address any questions you may have.  We also recommend before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.