When a problem develops with your bite function, it might not be as simple to diagnose and address as many other oral health concerns (like tooth decay or gum disease). In many cases, the problem doesn’t originate with your teeth or their alignment, but with the jaw joints and muscles that control your bite’s movement. Known as TMJ disorder (or temporomandibular joint disorder), such a dysfunction can have several consequences and symptoms, many of which differ from patient to patient.
Your TMJ’s main purpose
TMJ disorder can describe different kinds of damage to one or both of your temporomandibular joints, which are the joints that your lower jaw (or mandible) hinges on. When healthy and properly aligned, the TMJs on either side of your jaw allow it to open, close, and move as needed for you to bite, chew, speak, smile, and more. Their proper function relies on multiple factors, from the size and shape of your jawbone structure to the alignment of your teeth, and much more. If there’s a discrepancy in any of these structures, then the impact on your bite’s balance can lead to excessive pressure that can cause damage to one or both of your TMJs.
When a disorder affects this function
When one or both of your jaw joints aren’t able to function properly because of damage, inflammation, misalignment, or more, the disorder can result in a number of different consequences for your oral health. Because your TMJs are directly responsible for your bite’s function, diminished and/or uncomfortable jaw movement is often a common symptom. You may experience popping or clicking noises as your jaw joints try to accommodate themselves, as well as chronic discomfort and pain, such as migraines. The longer the condition is left untreated, the more severe these symptoms can become.
Dealing with a TMJ disorder
Given the many different potential causes of TMJ disorder and the unique nature of each person’s condition, dealing with the disorder can be different for everyone. For instance, many patients with TMJ disorder can find relief with a custom oral appliance that helps their jaws rest more comfortably. More severe cases may require more direct surgical intervention to correct to a serious underlying issue (such as an asymmetrical jawbone).
Learn more about TMJ disorder
TMJ disorder isn’t as common as many other conditions, but its impact can be felt in several different areas of your oral health. To learn more, schedule a consultation with us by calling the office of Dr. Stuart Dexter in Prairie Village, KS, today at 913-362-8200.