The temporomandibular joints, which are located just in front of the ears, help facilitate proper chewing function. When these joints become inflamed or damaged, it can cause severe pain or discomfort in the jaws as well as the neck, back, and face. Left untreated, it can even lead to other serious oral health issues, such as dental erosion, mobility, and even tooth loss.
At Cosmetic Dentistry of New Mexico, we offer treatments in neuromuscular dentistry, which focuses on promoting harmony between the jaw, teeth, and gums. Here, our Albuquerque, NM, dental team explores the causes and symptoms of TMJ disorder and how mouth guards can alleviate pain and discomfort for many patients.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
While an exact cause is unknown, there are several different factors that can contribute to the development of TMJ disorder. Some of the most common include:
- Cartilage erosion: Sometimes the disk that cushions the jaw joints can become worn down. As a result, the bones can grind against one another, resulting in discomfort.
- Bruxism: Chronic teeth grinding or clenching can lead to TMJ issues. Conversely, TMJ disorder often causes bruxism.
- Dislocation: Trauma or injury can result in jaw dislocation. This condition is often accompanied by popping or clicking when opening or closing the mouth.
- Orthodontic malocclusion: When the teeth are not in proper alignment, the jaws may overcompensate to achieve normal function. Over time, this can cause jaw fatigue and pain.
- Arthritis: Inflammation of the jaw joints can cause swelling in the surrounding tissues and ligaments, resulting in a number of painful TMJ symptoms.
How Can I Tell if I Have TMJ Disorder?
TMJ dysfunction can present a host of varying symptoms – mild to severe, acute to chronic. Here are just a few of the most common warning signs:
- Jaw pain
- Pain in the back, neck, or face
- Tingling in the extremities
Custom Mouth Guards for TMJ Disorder
One of the most common treatments for TMJ dysfunction is a custom oral appliance. This device fits over the teeth and is designed for your unique dental anatomy. Once in place, the mouth guard gently forces the jaw into a more favorable position. This type of appliance also helps protect the teeth from damage caused by clenching and grinding.
Our team creates custom mouth guards at our Albuquerque dental practice. First, impressions are taken of the teeth. These impressions are then sent to our dental lab for the fabrication of your new appliance. Patients wear the mouth guard while they sleep to reduce the risk of damage and alleviate painful TMJ symptoms.
While custom mouth guards are successful for most cases of TMJ disorder, some patients may require alternative treatments. If your TMJ issues are primarily due to orthodontic misalignment, then we may recommend braces or Invisalign®. For complex cases, corrective jaw surgery may be necessary.
Contact Our Practice for More Information
To explore your treatment options for TMJ disorder, schedule a consultation at our Albuquerque practice. During a consultation, our team can determine if a custom mouth guard will be beneficial for you. Contact us online anytime or call our office at (505) 355-0314.