Don’t risk developing TMJ disorder after tooth loss.
Dental implants provide an excellent way to treat tooth loss, as implants function just like your natural teeth. Further, dental implants can preserve your jaw structure, thus preventing atrophy related to bone loss. Patients who elect not to get implants often, however, experience a misalignment of their jawbone, otherwise known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). As such, there is a strong link between the TMJ and dental implants.
What is TMJ disorder?
Let’s start by explaining what TMJ disorder is. Millions of Americans suffer from chronic neck and facial pain along with recurring headaches and migraines. Though this pain can be due to various reasons, it is occasionally the result of Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD). Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is just a fancy way of referring to your jawbone. And, this bone connects your lower jawbone to your skull. As your jawbones get a lot of exercise during the day due to speaking, chewing, swallowing, and yawning, it can be quite unpleasant when you get pain in this area. In extreme situations, the pain can be so consuming that it restricts jaw movement.
What causes TMD?
When you lose a tooth, it can have a drastic effect on your bite alignment, and your TMJ can be compromised. As a result, your jaw compensates by working in a misaligned manner. This can cause swelling and irritation to your jawbone, causing a variety of other symptoms.
A great way to understand TMJ disorder is to consider walking around your house all day wearing a ballet flat (or tennis shoe) and a high-heeled shoe (or consider one of Prince’s boots). Your body will ache in many places as it was misaligned throughout the day. Just like your feet need to be on the same level and equal to one another, your jawbone has that same need. So, when you have missing teeth, it causes far more than damage to your bite.
That said, it is possible to develop TMJ disorder for other reasons, and we would be remiss not to share those reasons with you. Common causes of TMJ disorder, aside from missing teeth, include:
- Hereditary factors
- Unconscious tooth grinding (called bruxism)
How do you know if you have TMJ disorder?
During your dental exam, your dentist will assess you for risk of TMJ disorder. And, if you have experienced tooth loss, your dentist will likely recommend dental implants. So, if you have lost a tooth but have not yet proceeded with dental implants, you should be aware of the following TMJ disorder symptoms.
- Chronic headaches or migraines
- Pain/tenderness in the jaw
- Facial pain
- An earache in one or both ears
- Aching teeth
- Pain while chewing
- Jaw clicking or popping (something you can often feel and hear)
- Locking of the jaw upon opening
- Dental damage, like cracks and chips in the teeth
How do dentists treat TMD?
If your dentist or the Bentz Dental Implant & Prosthodontic Center team determines that you have TMJ disorder, they will recommend the appropriate TMJ treatment for you. Without treatment, patients can experience various dental damage from TMJ disorders, including chipped or fractured teeth and cracks that will continue to deepen. Patients might also wear facets into their teeth’s biting surfaces or experience sensitivity to heat, cold, and bite pressure.
Without the proper preventative care and restoration for TMJ disorder, patients might experience a breakdown of existing restorations, including fillings, crowns, and bridges. Thus, typical treatment for TMJ disorder often includes therapies such as the following:
- Occlusal appliances or mouth guards can help lessen the stress put on the jaw.
- Physical therapy including exercises designed to strengthen and stretch out the applicable muscles.
- Education and counseling so that patients understand the behaviors that might exacerbate their pain, thus employing the proper steps to avoid those behaviors in the future.
Medicinal treatment might also make sense, depending on the severity of the TMJ disorder. Typical medications include pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, tricyclic antidepressants, or muscle relaxants. The Bentz Dental Implant & Prosthodontic Center team will also recommend various strategies that the patient can take to keep the disorder from becoming more severe. Those simple steps include the following:
- Relaxing the face
- Being conscious of tooth grinding to stop it from happening
- Avoiding constant gum chewing
- Chewing food evenly on both sides of the mouth
- Not resting the chin in the hand
- Practicing good posture by keeping the head up, back straight, and shoulders squared
- Not cradling a phone between head and shoulder—thankfully, modern cell phones with speaker settings, and headsets, can help solve this problem
When these home-care remedies don’t work and if the treatments above don’t suffice, a dentist might suggest TMJ surgery or more robust procedures. Those options include the following:
- A minimally invasive procedure called arthrocentesis involves inserting tiny needles into the joint to allow irrigation through the joint, thus removing debris and inflammatory by-products
- Corticosteroid injections of botulinum toxin type A (Botox) into the chewing muscles of the jaw
- Arthroscopic surgery leveraging a small thin tube placed into the joint space
- Modified condylotomy for cases of lockjaw
- Open-joint surgery if jaw pain doesn’t resolve with more-conservative treatments and is caused by a structural problem in the joint
The Bentz Dental Implant & Prosthodontic Center can help ease the pain caused by TMJ disorder
If you are experiencing TMJ disorder, it is essential to note that you don’t have to suffer. Treatment is available. If you are looking for help with your TMJ disorder and you live in the East Norriton, PA area, be sure to request an appointment by using our simple, easy-to-use online form.
We look forward to helping you reduce the pain associated with your TMJ disorder through dental implants or the proper TMJ treatment for you.