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TMJ Disorder

Managing Stress to Help Your Jaw Rest

Fairfax Woman holding mouth in distress from TMJ painYou may spend most of your life unaware of the important little triangular-shaped joints located in front of your ears. Lined with cartilage, these joints move with a smooth, gliding motion. Under normal conditions, they join your lower jaw and temporal bone, allowing your mouth to open and close easily. However, stress or an improper bite can cause the joints to dysfunction, exposing nerve endings to create pain. In fact, the temporomandibular joint is highly sensitive to overall physical, emotional, and psychological stress. It is affected by the mechanics of your bite and the condition of your jaw muscles. A little extra stress, a little extra fatigue, a little change in your bite, and you may temporarily knock the whole system out of balance. The resulting TMJ disorder, or TMD, can create a variety of mild to severe symptoms, from jaw clicking and minor discomfort to sharp pain in your temple, ear, neck, and shoulders. Additional symptoms include headaches, dizziness, and facial pain.

The condition is very common in our culture, so we evaluate every patient for TMJ dysfunction at their regular dental exam. If we detect a problem, our goals are to arrest it, protect teeth from further damage, and correct underlying bite misalignment. Therapy may involve fitting you with a physiologic bite appliance, suggesting ways to alleviate stress, and recommending symptom relief measures. Typically, TMJ patients need to avoid chewing gum or hard, chewy food, take small bites, and alternate chewing between both sides of the mouth. Good nutrition will help the joint heal more quickly; good posture will also help relieve discomfort. A straight back, relaxed neck, and side-sleeping position are also helpful. To relieve soreness, light temple and jaw massage will stimulate circulation and relax the muscles. If pain is present, we suggest alternating moist heat and cold for 20 minutes to further increase circulation. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or analgesics can be very helpful as well.

Neuromuscular Dentistry: Effective TMD Solutions

Dr. Bassiri offers non-surgical therapy to alleviate pain caused by TMJ disorder. In the past, TMJ disorder was somewhat difficult to diagnose and treat. Now, thanks to current research and technology, Dr. Bassiri can accurately diagnose TMJ disorder and recommend non-surgical correction through splinting, mouthguards, biofeedback, and other techniques. Usually, a patient with TMJ disorder can chose between wearing an orthotic indefinitely, wearing an orthotic temporarily while we build up teeth to correct the bite, or wearing full-mouth veneers and crowns to correct the bite. We also offer neuromuscular orthodontics to correct jaw alignment and alleviate TMJ-related pain.

The relationship between your teeth, jaws, jaw muscles, and head is important for comfortable oral function. Neuromuscular dentistry treats not only the teeth, but the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) muscles, jaws, and related components. Dr. Bassiri offers a full range of biomedical technology designed to help us re-establish a healthy relationship between your dental structures. You can read about the TENS and K-7 here.

Muscles and Your Teeth: The Important Connection

While they may not initially seem even remotely related, your teeth and the muscles of your head and neck are actually linked quite closely. Your teeth are surrounded by muscles on all sides – your tongue on the inside and your cheeks on the outside, as well as the muscles that dictate the movement and position your jaw. These muscles greatly impact your oral health, and their influence may even extend to your overall state of physical well-being.

The muscles that control the jaw are constantly at work, even when you are unaware of it. In fact, many people subconsciously clench their jaw muscles as they sleep, an action that places an inordinate amount of pressure on the teeth. This can negatively affect the alignment of the teeth, jaw function, and posture. Impaired jaw function can lead to severe discomfort in the neck and shoulders, as well as intense headaches.

The Role of the Upper Airway

If an individual is incapable of breathing normally through the nose, the bite may be affected by mouth breathing. There are a variety of reasons that breathing through the nose may be difficult, including asthma, enlarged adenoids or tonsils, allergies, a deviated septum, and other conditions. Breathing through the mouth rather than the nose for the majority of the time causes the tongue to place excessive pressure on the teeth. The front teeth may become gradually thrust forward, leading to what we call an open bite. An open bite occurs when the front teeth do not come together, even when the back teeth do. An impaired airway can lead to a narrower dental arch and subsequent crowding of the teeth. In order to ensure that the airway is properly restored, your neuromuscular dentist may work with your general practitioner when medical intervention is needed.

Neuromuscular Dentistry: Diagnosis and Treatment

As your neuromuscular dentist, Dr. Bassiri will take into consideration every component of your oral health, jaw function, muscle status, and more. We utilize a series of advanced tests and assessments along with the latest in neuromuscular dental technology and non-invasive instruments. Our primary objective is to provide you with the personalized treatment you need to experience relief and comfort. Contact us today to learn more about how neuromuscular orthodontics can help you.

If you need an experienced neuromuscular dentist who understands function and cosmetics, call Dr. Bassiri to schedule your consultation today. Our comfortable dental offices serve patients from the Fairfax McLean area in Northern Virginia and the greater Washington DC Metro area. We can't wait to create and maintain your sensational smile, and to help you get the TMD relief you deserve.