Knocking Down Myths About TMJ Disorder

bowling over mythsTMJ disorder, which affects the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) connecting your lower jaw to your skull, isn’t as well-defined as tooth decay and gum disease. The pain isn’t confined to a specific area, and might include headaches and earaches as well as jaw pain and facial discomfort. There’s no single cause for the disorder, and preventing it isn’t an exact science. Nevertheless, TMJ disorder isn’t exactly a mystery. Experts know that certain circumstances contribute to jaw joint damage and fatigue, and that treating those circumstances can help your jaws heal and alleviate discomfort. Despite what the experts know, many patients who suffer from TMJ disorder know little about it, and much of what they believe might not be exactly accurate.

Myth 1: It’s All in Your Head

Before TMJ disorder was widely-known, doctors often believed that the chronic head, neck, and face pains were the result of emotional tension, such as prolonged anxiety and stress. The truth, though, is that there’s a real and tangible reason for the discomfort of TMJ disorder—damaged jaw joints and muscles, usually due to excessive pressure from an injury or imbalanced bite.

Myth 2: Only Bruxers Have TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorder has a close relationship with habitual teeth-grinding, or bruxism. The habit can facilitate TMJ disorder’s formation by placing repeated pressure and tension on your jaws. Conversely, your teeth can grind together as your jaw muscles spasm, or continuously shift as they try to find a more comfortable position. Yet, bruxism isn’t the only way for your jaw’s to become damaged. Crooked teeth, an asymmetrical jawbone, an overbite or underbite, or other bite problems can also lead to and exacerbate the formation of TMJ disorder.

Myth 3: You Need Surgery to Cure TMJ Disorder

If one side of your jawbone is longer than the other, or if your oral/maxillofacial structures have been damaged, then you may require surgery to correct your bite so your TMJs can heal. Often, however, bite misalignment can be corrected with appropriate orthodontic treatment or a combination of oral splints. A recommended regimen of stretches and exercises can strengthen and loosen your jaw’s muscles and joints to reduce pain and the risk of future damage.

About Your Livonia Dentist:

As a highly experienced general and restorative dentist, Dr. Stewart is dedicated to helping all of our patients enjoy the benefits of a healthy, beautiful smile. James Steward, DDS, and our compassionate staff proudly serve patients of all ages from Livonia, Farmington Hills, Plymouth, Northville, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, and all surrounding communities. To schedule an appointment, call our office today at (734) 425-4400.