TMJ/TMD Treatment and Bruxism

In Family Dental Health, Services by

In today’s world, many people suffer from pain and the lack of mobility in their jaw joints. Such conditions are collectively referred to as TMD or TMJ, meaning temporal-mandibular dysfunction, or temporal-mandibular joint syndrome. Whatever it is called, this condition results in significant pain and restricted use of the mouth and jaws for many people.

The causes of these conditions are numerous, and include; growth, injury, bite function, stress, trauma, systemic disease (such as arthritis), and aging. Because the causes are so many, the range of symptoms we feel are even more numerous. But generally, we notice noise coming from the joints, locking of the joints, pain in the muscles on the sides of our face and head, and a decreasing ability to live a normal life. People may bring this condition to the attention of their medical doctor or dentist, but treatment is usually done by the dental practitioner.

Treatment begins with thorough and complete diagnosis. This may necessitate x-rays of the joints called tomograms, and will involve models of the teeth mounted in a manner similar to the arches of teeth in our head.

The acute pain associated with this disease is usually controlled by using a carefully constructed orthotic splint that is worn on one arch. Such wear can be part time or full time depending upon the treatment goals. These goals can only be determined by careful, complete, honest discussion between the patient and dentist. Then both parties understand the steps needed for care, and the limitations of that care.

Treating TMD is like building a pyramid, not meaning it takes hundreds of years, but meaning that each step comes in a proper sequence, and one step must be completely and successfully accomplished before we can begin the next.

Generally, after the acute phase of TMD has been resolved, a second stage of treatment is necessary to ward off the return of the original symptoms. Such care may include; Equilibration, or reshaping of the tooth biting surfaces, Orthodontics, or moving teeth into better position, Reconstruction, or rebuilding the tooth biting surfaces, or Surgery, to move teeth and bones into a better relationship.

Please contact our office if you suffer from these troubling maladies.

Bruxism is the conscious or unconscious act of clenching your teeth together. This destructive habit can prematurely wear the enamel from the tops of our teeth. Often, people who brux report that the muscles on the sides of their face will be painful, or locked in spasm.

People who brux can wear the cusps away from their back teeth, leaving hollowed shells of what were once tall, strong teeth. As this process continues, and the back teeth are worn down, the forces are transferred to the more delicate front teeth. We may one day notice that our front teeth have become very flat, this is the result of bruxism.

Treatment for this disease process involves, thorough and accurate diagnosis followed by the construction and refinement of a protective mouthguard. Such an appliance will be constructed of hard acrylic, and then adjusted methodically so that the appliance provides maximum relief to overworked muscles resulting in the maximum relief for the patient. Properly designed bruxism guards can alleviate much of the muscle fatigue that may exist, thereby allowing the patient to rest better and most importantly…preserve their tooth structure. Occasionally, other forms of treatment may be used in combination with a bruxism guard, including; equilibration (tooth adjustment), orthodontics, and reconstruction of severely affected teeth.

A properly designed and adjusted bruxism guard will generally last for a decade. This of course assumes the family dog doesn’t find the appliance and create the world’s most expensive chew toy!

If you have noticed that your enamel is being worn, have been told by your partner that you are “grinding your teeth” in your sleep, have muscle pain on the sides of your face when you awaken or during the day, please ask Dr. Prendergast or the staff about Brusixm.