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As science is increasingly discovering, dentistry has a very important role to play in not only the health of your mouth, but your overall wellbeing. Something as simple as opening and closing your mouth can be a sign of larger emotional or physical health issues that we can help you address.
For example, you probably have never even heard of the temporomandibular joint (hard to remember because it seems unpronounceable, which is why we just call it the TMJ). This consists of the two hinges on either side of your mouth where the lower jaw is attached to your skull, which you can feel if you put your fingers just in front of the lower part of your ears and open your mouth. If you have trouble opening and closing your mouth–it may feel almost locked–or you have pain or hear a clicking or popping sound when you do this, it is a symptom of TMJ Disorder.
TMJD can be caused by trauma to the head from a sports or car accident. It might be due to old dental crowns need to be replaced or you grind your teeth while you sleep and the top surfaces now are uneven and are causing misalignment of your bite. You may have had crooked teeth since childhood, but hated the idea of wearing orthodontic braces, since you heard they were very uncomfortable and the wires could injure the mouth (not to mention, there were dietary restrictions and teeth were very hard to clean). Without straightening, the bite is off and this can also result in dislocation.
Stress can cause unconscious tension in the jaw that can lead to TMJD (sometimes we might chew gum excessively when stressed out, but this only makes it more likely that the joint will get out of place).
There are many other possible causes, especially for women 18-44, since pre-menopausal women often have calcium and magnesium deficiencies, which affect bone density, including joints. Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy can cause joint pain. The type of protein known as collagen, which holds disks in place between the joints and sockets, is weaker in women than men, making the joints more easily dislocated.
Other signs of possible TMJD can be swelling, soreness, or spasms on the sides of the face, sore muscles in the neck and shoulders, dizziness, migraine headaches, occasional ringing-in-the-ears, ears that feel congested, or earaches.
The good news is that Wilshire Smile Studio has may ways to remedy TMJD, including upgrading old dental work, having you start wearing Invisalign orthodontic trays (which do not require dietary restrictions or provide cleaning challenges), wearing a night mouthguards to protect your teeth from being ground down, and having us create a personalized orthotic splint, which you can wear during the day to slowly restore the TMJ to its correct position.
Call us for an appointment to have your temporomandibular joint examined to determine whether you need to have an appropriate treatment.