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TMJ Disorder: A short guide and treatment suggestions





Understanding and Treating TMJ Disorder at Aidencare


At Aidencare, a common condition we encounter in our dental practice is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD), a complex ailment that affects the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement. My observations, backed by professional experience, have led me to recognize certain patterns and effective treatments for this condition, which can significantly impact the quality of life.



Characteristics of TMJD: Signs and Symptoms


TMJD can manifest through a variety of signs and symptoms, which may include:


- Jaw pain or tenderness: This is often the most noticeable symptom, which may occur on one or both sides of the face.

- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing: Patients may experience discomfort or pain when eating, which can affect their nutritional intake and overall quality of life.

- Aching facial pain: The discomfort can extend to areas of the face surrounding the jaw.

- Locking of the joint: This makes it difficult to open or close the mouth, significantly impacting daily functions like speaking and eating.

- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds: These sounds may occur when opening or closing the mouth and are not always accompanied by pain.



Diagnosing TMJD at Aidencare


To differentiate TMJD from other types of pain, such as neuralgia or sinus issues, we conduct a comprehensive assessment. This evaluation includes a detailed review of the patient's medical history, a physical examination of the jaw and face for pain and tenderness, listening for sounds during jaw movement, and assessing the range of motion in the jaw. In some cases, imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs may be necessary to rule out other conditions and to provide a clear view of the jaw and surrounding structures.


Why TMJD is Prevalent Among Teachers and Call Center Workers


TMJD often manifests due to overexertion of the muscles around the jaw area. In my practice, I have noticed a particularly high occurrence among teachers and, previously in the UK, among individuals working in call centers. The nature of these jobs involves extensive speaking or being in a fixed posture for prolonged periods, which can strain the jaw muscles and the temporomandibular joint. However, it's important to note that while these professions may be more susceptible, TMJD is not exclusive to them.



The Universal Risk of TMJD


Technically, anyone can develop TMJD if the muscles around the jaw are not adequately rested. This might stem from overworking, habitual clenching or grinding of teeth (bruxism), or even lifestyle factors such as extensive traveling. These activities can lead to or exacerbate TMJD by not allowing sufficient time for the muscles to recover and relax.



Treatment Options at Aidencare: The Role of Michigan Splints



At Aidencare, we have developed a refined approach to managing TMJD, primarily through the use of Michigan splints. These devices are designed to alleviate stress on the jaw by preventing teeth grinding and clenching, particularly during sleep. The protocol typically involves wearing the splint for a minimum of three months, although in some cases, it may be recommended for up to a year. For chronic bruxists, we might even prescribe Michigan splints for lifetime use.



Some words of encouragement


I understand firsthand how musculoskeletal disorders can be debilitating. As a dentist who has suffered from back pain, I can empathize with the discomfort and the impact it can have on daily life. TMJD can feel very similar to these disorders, as it affects one's ability to perform routine activities like talking and eating without pain.



Final Thoughts


For those suffering from TMJD, it's important to remember that you are not alone, and there are effective treatments available. At Aidencare, we are committed to providing relief and improving the quality of life for our patients. The journey to recovery may require patience and persistence, but with the right treatment plan, significant improvement is possible. We encourage anyone experiencing symptoms of TMJD to seek help and explore the options that can lead to a more comfortable and pain-free life.

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