Your mouth is made up of several components, all of which help it to perform a number of different essential tasks. One of these components is the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. This joint is the point at which your lower jaw meets your skull. It plays an important role in the movements of your jaw, allowing you to open and close your mouth, as well as move it from side to side. When the joint becomes irritated (and inflamed), it can lead to severe pain and difficulty performing normal daily functions, a condition known as TMD (temporomandibular disorder). At Cooley Smiles Bellvue, we can help diagnose and treat your TMD, giving you back the health of your mouth.
What Is TMD?
TMD, or temporomandibular disorder, is a disorder that refers to a variety of different issues that affect the normal daily functions of the joint and your overall oral health. Irritation to the joint can cause it to become inflamed, which can lead to a significant amount of pain and general discomfort, affecting your quality of life. Tasks that were once simple, such as eating and speaking, suddenly become a major challenge. Common symptoms of TMD include:
What Causes TMD?
There are a number of different causes of TMD. Not all of these causes are readily apparent, which can often make the diagnosis a bit more difficult. Common causes of TMD include:
Diagnosing and Treating TMD
In order to provide you with the best possible treatment, we first need to diagnose the cause of your TMD. Detection and treatment of TMD is accomplished by a branch of dentistry known as Dentofacial Orthopedics. We begin with a thorough examination of your mouth, checking the alignment of your teeth and jaw, and checking your teeth for signs of wear. We will also take x-rays of your mouth, which will allow us to get a better look at what is happening in your jaw. Both a visual exam and x-rays help to give us a complete picture.
We also use a TENS unit. This equipment allows us to relax the muscles in the jaw so that we can monitor movement to determine alignment. We are then able to develop an appropriate treatment plan that meets your specific needs. In some cases, a custom-fit night guard may be able to help. This device is made from an impression of your mouth, and fits over your top teeth (similar to a sports mouthguard). It helps to hold your jaw in proper alignment while you sleep and can provide cushioning to absorb the force exerted by your jaw. Depending upon your alignment issues, you may require orthodontic treatment, which will realign the teeth and/or jaw, helping to effectively eliminate your TMJ pain.
What Happens if TMD Goes Untreated?
Untreated TMD can have a significant impact on your overall quality of life. The issues can spread far beyond your jaw, face, and neck. You may also experience issues with posture, which can restrict the flow of oxygen to the organs in your body, which can lead to lethargy. You may also begin to experience issues with balance. Ultimately, untreated TMD can turn an oral issue into a whole-body issue. This is what makes seeking treatment as soon as possible so important.
Don't let the pain in your TMJ affect your quality of life. Contact Cooley Smiles Bellvue today for more information and to schedule your appointment today.