Yes, Its All Connected!
Many of our patients are suffering from headaches and neck pain. They do not normally attribute those symptoms to their teeth or jaws? Not until they actually have some jaw pain, limited opening or can not chew normally do they seek help. After all my years in practice, I must admit we are one stressed out nation! At least half of my patients, especially females, have TMJ disorder symptoms. It takes some in-depth questioning to get to the root of the problem as it varies greatly.
Two common causes seem to be stress and habit. Usually the damage is caused either by clenching ( squeezing teeth tightly) or grinding (horizontal jaw movement).
Clenching typically causes headaches, neck and muscle pain ,while grinding can also result in locked jaw, limited opening and inability to chew. There are quite few treatment modalities to manage TMJ disorder ranging from soft diet all the way to custom guard appliances and prescription medications. Ultimately TMJ is not really cured, but managed much like diabetes and blood pressure. I advise my patients to seek treatment as soon as any discomfort is felt, because delaying dental care will cause more pain. Overall, I evaluate all my patients upon their initial visit for common signs of bite trauma such as
- stress fractures on their teeth
- wear beyond their chronological age
- reported stress/headaches
- uneven jaw movements
- limited opening/locked jaw
- pain when chewing
- clicking in their jaw
- soreness in the teeth
- severe cold sensitivity
- large enamel abfractions
- exposed root/recessed gums
TMJ is not always well understood by both patients and medical profession until it is severe and affects daily function. Therefore, I trained my entire team to be very well versed in TMJ diagnosis and treatment. There are many types of oral appliances that can help patients suffering from jaw pain. Over the counter appliances, despite being cost effective do not offer same fit and comfort level and more importantly they are not custom made for specific patient’s bite and as such may actually make one’s symptoms worse.
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above symptoms, please seek professional help.