Those affected by temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) can be affected in different ways. For some, the symptoms can be so minor that they're barely noticed. For others, the symptoms can be extreme, and their teeth and jaw muscles pay the price. The condition has the potential to be quite disastrous to a patient's oral health, which is why a dental appointment is essential when you suspect you have TMJ. How will your dentist be able to help you? 

Your Mandible

Your temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw (your mandible) to the rest of your jaw. TMJ dysfunction is characterized by pain and discomfort in the joint (and surrounding areas). This is often most pronounced after waking, as overnight clenching of your jaw and grinding of your teeth is a hallmark of the condition. What causes it?

Occlusal Forces

Changing occlusal forces can lead to TMJ. Your occlusion is simply the way in which your upper and lower teeth fit together when your jaw closes. The pressure created by occlusion can change due to a dental disorder—a damaged (or missing) tooth, the misalignment of a tooth or teeth, or even advanced gum disease. These conditions can change the set of your jaw, leading to a strain on your temporomandibular joint, leading to TMJ dysfunction. 

Clinical Causes

If your dentist notes an obvious clinical cause for your TMJ, they can directly treat this issue, whether it's related to a missing tooth, occlusal misalignment, or another dental concern. The symptoms of your TMJ should then subside. However, some instances of TMJ don't have an obvious clinical cause.

Dental Damage

TMJ may be triggered by hormonal or genetic causes or even stress. Its origins may be a mystery, however, its symptoms can be successfully treated. Your dentist will need to reverse any damage caused by grinding your teeth. This involuntary nocturnal habit may have corroded dental enamel from the biting surfaces of your teeth. This requires a synthetic replacement, and your dentist may restore these surfaces using composite dental resin (tooth-colored material also used to fill cavities). You may also require a restoration such as an overlay—which is a type of partial dental crown that covers the tooth's biting surface.

Ongoing Protection

Additionally, your dentist will recommend a device called a night guard. This is a type of lightweight mouthguard designed to be comfortable so it can be worn overnight. The thermoplastic of the guard stops the upper and lower teeth from making direct contact, which prevents grinding. This protects your teeth from further damage.

Extreme cases of TMJ may require more advanced treatment, but many sufferers can have their symptoms alleviated after consulting their dentist.

Contact a local dentist to learn more about TMJ treatment options.