Loss of several teeth, or even their undue wear, can seriously affect your temporomandibular joint, the sophisticated unit that hinges your lower jaw to eat and talk, among other functions. A marvel of muscle, bone, and engineering, the temporomandibular joint is the engine that drives all dental function, yet few people know of its importance. Unusual tooth wear and eventual tooth loss can alter the physics of the TM joint which, in turn, ages your appearance, modifies your speech, affects your ability to chew, and degrades your bite (the relationship between your upper and lower teeth). A symmetrical bite, one where all of your upper teeth mesh and interact correctly with your lower teeth, is critical to good dental health. A healthy bite ensures that jaw pressure is equally distributed across your whole dental set, as it should be. If pressure is not equally distributed, and one side is carrying more that it should, this can seriously affect your eating and appearance. The temporomandibular joint may not function correctly on one side, causing pain and discomfort and an altered facial appearance. It can also lead to improper tooth wear and loss.
Because your dentist is a student of the Pankey experience, she will give your TMJ the attention it is due. Dr. McClatchie will help you bring all your teeth, uppers and lowers, anteriors and posteriors, into proper and healthy juxtaposition.
Diseased teeth also affect your general health. An infection in the mouth or elsewhere forces your body to muster its defense system to fight the infection. This can weaken and tire you.
Chronic facial pain — pain in or around the ear, tender jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth, headaches and neck aches — may arise from many easily identifiable and treatable causes, including a sinus infection, tooth decay or gum disease. But sometimes the source is more elusive, and it may be TMD, a group of often painful disorders affecting the jaw and chewing muscles. Common causes of TMD include:
Treatment of your temporomandibular joint disorder may range from conservative medical care to complex surgery. Your treatment may include short term care such as pain medication, muscle relaxation, bite plate or splint therapy and, at times, stress reduction counseling.
A dental splint is a device that can be used to stabilize loose teeth or protect the teeth from damage in patients with TMJ, snoring, and sleep apnea. Splints can be worn all the time for a designated treatment period, or while sleeping for long-term care of snoring and sleep apnea.
If non-surgical treatment is unsuccessful or if there is joint damage, surgery may be indicated. Surgery can range from the least invasive, arthrocentesis, to arthroscopy or open joint surgery.