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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Jaw Breaker

TMJ is a disorder in the temporomandibular joint, one of the most complex joints in the body that controls forward, backward, rotational, and side-to-side motions of the jaw. With so much to account for, range-of-motion complications related to this joint are common. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, more than 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ in some degree, and there is a wide range of conditions that can lead to the disorder.

Dr. David Ogle, a dentist with Family Dentistry in Newburgh, Ind., gives readers a few insights into TMJ, a condition that can, with the proper assistance, be treated and relieved.

The most common cause Ogle sees in his office is malocclusion, or an incorrect bite. When the teeth don’t fit together properly, the muscles compensate for the ill-fitted position, which causes pain and discomfort associated with TMJ. Chronic grinding and clenching of the teeth put strain on the jaw, which can result in inflammation in the joint and surrounding muscles that can lead to arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis may contribute to the disorder. Both occur after the degeneration of cartilage and bone and may cause uncomfortable and limited range of motion in the jaw, neck, and mouth.

According to Ogle, prevalent symptoms of TMJ include pain when biting or opening the mouth widely, ear pain associated with clicking and popping sounds, lockjaw or muscle stiffness, and sharp pain when chewing hard foods.

To treat TMJ, Ogle usually fits his patients in an acrylic splint that fits over the upper or lower teeth. The splint allows the muscles to rest and can protect teeth from grinding. Ogle says, in most cases, patients see relief within two weeks of wearing a splint and can sometimes cycle themselves out of TMJ. If splint therapy does not work, Ogle recommends either a chiropractor or physical therapist to assess a patient’s muscles and joints and perform trigger point therapy or other relaxation techniques. In rare cases, Ogle sends patients to a specialist, but advises “surgery is not something to jump into quickly because of the many potential complications.”

For more information on TMJ, visit www.nidcr.nih.gov.

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