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Understanding the Impact of TMJ on Quality of Life: A Comprehensive Overview

This week we are taking a closer look at Temporomandibular (tem-puh-roe-man-DIB-u-lur) disorders (TMD) and problems with the Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) itself.

TMDs are an extremely common problem affecting up to a third of individuals and the symptoms can be painful and debilitating, severely compromising a person’s quality of life. For reasons that are not yet fully understood, TMDs are twice as common in women than in men, especially in women between 35 and 44 years old.

At Gateway Dental we have our own dedicated TMJ specialist, Dr Richard Pollock who can help discover problems with your TMJ joints and help relieve or eliminate your symptoms which, in many cases, will drastically improve your quality of life.

What is TMD?

TMD is a group of more than 30 conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement. As we referred to above, ‘TMDs’ refers to the disorders, and ‘TMJ’ refers only to the Temporomandibular joint itself. There are two TMJs; one on each side of the jaw. You can feel them by placing your fingers in front of your ears and opening your mouth.

Symptoms of TMD

The most common symptoms of TMD of the TMJ are listed below. As we mentioned above. These symptoms, while not life-threatening, do contribute to a significant loss of quality of life. Constant pain can be extremely debilitating and doing all we can to eliminate symptoms by discovering the cause should be our first action.

Pain in the chewing muscles and/or jaw joint (most common symptom)

Pain that spreads to the face or neck

Jaw stiffness

Limited movement or locking of the jaw

Painful clicking, popping, or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth

Ringing in the ears, hearing loss, or dizziness

A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together

Do you suffer from any of these symptoms? If you do then contact us to arrange an appointment with our TMJ specialist.

TMJ and Tinnitus

Ringing in the ears is a particularly common symptom of TMD disorders. If you think about the jaw joint as a ball and socket, when the joint is compressed, the ball inside the socket is forced too far back in the direction of the ear canal. That compressed ball pinches on nerves and blood vessels that are right beside the ear. The compression contributes to the ringing, and sometimes to chronic pain. When we decompress the ball, the pressure is relieved, and that decreases the pain and ringing.

Tinnitus and a TMJ disorder combined in a patient are significant. A study by Geon-Sik Kong (etal) sought to investigate the associations of TMDs, Tinnitus, and quality of life among the Korean population, aged 19 years or older. The study utilized the Fifth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2012. The results found that the study group with both TMD and Tinnitus reported the highest percentage of problems with pain/discomfort and anxiety/depression which led to a severe lessening of the participant's quality of life. These results emphasize the need for a comprehensive approach to address these disorders by a TMD/TMJ specialist.

Risk factors for developing TMD/TMJ Disorders

Some of the factors that may increase the risk of developing TMJ disorders include:

Various types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis

Jaw injury

Long-term (chronic) grinding or clenching of teeth

Certain connective tissue diseases that cause problems that may affect the temporomandibular joint

It is extremely important to make an appointment to see a specialist with the experience and expertise to correctly diagnose problems with your TMJ’s

How can we help?

We never take a one-size-fits-all approach to TMJ problems. This is because we understand that your TMD can have several different causes and that to find the correct treatment, we must first understand why you’re experiencing pain. This means that during your first appointment with us, Dr. Pollock will take the time to perform a thorough evaluation of your symptoms by examining your teeth and jaw and taking the time to speak with you about what you’re experiencing.

What will happen during your appointment?

During your appointment, our TMJ specialist will note your symptoms and take a detailed medical history. Questions about your pain will be asked, including its location, when it occurs, what makes it better or worse, and if it stays in one area or spreads. We will also ask if you have other pain conditions such as headache or Tinnitus (ringing in the ears). As we outlined above, a TMJ disorder and Tinnitus combined cause pain and discomfort that leads to a severe loss of quality of life.

As such, the underlying problem may require orthodontics to realign your bite. We will take impressions and have a custom-made appliance that will correct your bite and get you out of pain.

Our specialist will also examine your head, neck, face, and jaw for tenderness; jaw clicking or popping; or difficulty with movement. We might also suggest imaging studies such as an OPG panoramic X-ray or a CBCT Scan.

The prognosis for TMJ disorders is good, and TMJ dentistry can help relieve your pain in most cases.

So rather than trying to live with TMJ pain, see our clinician to determine if TMJ dentistry is right for you.

If you do suffer book an appointment to see our TMJ specialist.

Gateway Dental Team



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