Diagnosing some dental conditions takes a little more detective work than others. For instance, a cavity’s presence can be betrayed by the visual signs of decay (i.e., internal tooth discoloration, a visible hole in your tooth, and/or a severe toothache). Gum disease is usually detected by inflamed, bleeding, and receding gums (to varying degrees, depending on its severity). TMJ disorder, however, isn’t a bacterial infection, but a functional disorder that affects the joints, muscles, and nerves in charge of your jaw’s movement. Since the nature of the dysfunction differs from patient to patient, diagnosing and treating it requires a thorough and professional examination at your Lake Forest dentist’s office.
Dental Disorders that Lead to TMD
Temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are twin joints located in front of each ear. They connect your mandible to the temporal bones in your skull, hence the name, and they move in unison as you open and close your mouth. TMJ disorders describe any of numerous issues that cause damage and inflammation in the joints, or force them out of alignment. Some of the more common influences behind TMJ disorders include dental issues that disrupt your bite’s balance, including;
As your teeth clamp down, your jaw exerts an impressive amount of pressure. To avoid being exposed to too much stress, teeth should be aligned to properly distribute this pressure amongst each other. Crooked teeth can throw your bite off-balance, forcing your jaws to compensate, and the undue stress can damage your TMJs and the muscles surrounding them.
If you’re missing one or more teeth and haven’t had them replaced, then the discrepancy in your bite can force your remaining teeth to absorb additional pressure. Besides exhausted jaw joints, an incomplete smile can also lead to structural damage, like cracks and fractures, in your existing teeth.
Clenching your teeth when you’re tense or angry is natural. When your jaw’s muscles tighten, they force your teeth against each other. If you grind your teeth habitually (bruxism), you might wear down your teeth and damage your jaw’s joints, exacerbating your TMJ disorder.
Assessing TMJ Disorder
Assessing your symptoms is a vital part of diagnosing your TMJ disorder, but is often made difficult given the wide variety of symptoms that the dysfunction can generate. The nerve that controls your jaw’s movement, called the trigeminal nerve, also innervates much of your head, neck, and facial areas. When it’s disturbed, the nerve can transfer the pain throughout its three pathways, and can lead to;
- Chronic, severe migraines
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Tinnitus, or frequent pain and/or ringing in the ears
- Popping and clicking sounds when you open and close your jaw
- Ear popping, or the feeling of fullness in the middle ear
- Difficult jaw movement, or locked jaw
- Painful or uncomfortable chewing
Like its causes and symptoms, treatment for TMJ disorders depends on the patient’s specific condition. In many cases, Dr. Fondriest can prescribe splints or a custom mouthguard to help hold the jaw in a more ideal position, allowing the joints to rest comfortably and heal. If your teeth are crooked, then you may require orthodontic treatment to straighten them. Replacing lost teeth, preferably with one or more dental implants, can rebuild your smile and restore its balance. If you’ve suffered damage to your jawbone, or were born with a congenitally-uneven jawbone, then TMJ treatment might involve oral surgery to reconstruct the jawbone. If you believe you might have TMJ disorder, then visit Dr. Fondriest as soon as possible for a comprehensive examination and diagnosis.
About Your Lake Forest Dentist:
Aside from providing expert family, general, and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from West Forest Lake, Kennedy, Lake Bluff, Skokie Junction, and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.