Put your fingers right in front of your ear lobes and move your jaw. That movement you feel is actually a set of joints called the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), and they enable your jaw to move smoothly whenever you speak or chew. Just like any joint in the body, they can become strained or injured, and this can cause a wide variety of problems. Dr. Ransey Boyd and Dr. Kirstin Walther are able to diagnose and treat TMDs (temporomandibular disorders) at their dental office, and will always keep an eye on your jaw when you come to see them. If you are suffering from chronic jaw pain, headaches, earaches or facial pain, please contact our dental office today so we can start helping you.
When you come in showing the signs of a possible TMD, our doctors will examine your jaw, face, and teeth to figure out what is causing the problem. It may be the joints themselves have been injured, or you are grinding your teeth at night (a condition known as “bruxism”) and straining the joints. They may prescribe an oral appliance to handle the problem, which is a small mouthpiece you would wear each night to bed. This appliance helps put your jaw into a more comfortable, natural alignment so the muscles can relax and heal. In the case of teeth grinding, it also provides a protective barrier. Each mouthpiece is custom made for every patient so it perfectly fits their teeth and after a few days, many patients do not even notice they are wearing them. The doctors can also show you a variety of gentle exercises to help you relax your jaw muscles throughout the day.
TMJ problems can sometimes be caused by the teeth coming together incorrectly. This can cause the teeth to slightly shift within your mouth and stimulate the nerve, creating a stinging pain. Rather than adjusting the large muscles of the face and jaw, your doctor may slightly modify your teeth so they come together in a more natural way. This usually consists of gently buffing away a small amount of enamel so that your teeth will simply slide together without shifting.
Many people unconsciously clench their jaw throughout the day and while they sleep as well. This can put a lot of strain on the TMJ and eventually lead to chronic pain. An occlusal splint is one way our doctors can help with this issue. It is a small mouthguard that slides over your teeth and prevents the muscles in your jaw from contracting so much that they become strained. Many patients only need to wear them at night for a few weeks before their jaw naturally relaxes.