The oral anatomy includes a lot more than you see when you look at your smile. Throughout the mouth and jaw are vital structures that play an important role in chewing, speaking, and other functions. At the back of the jaws are joints that are referred to as the TMJs. The temporomandibular joints rotate in various directions so that you may open and close your mouth and slide it from side to side and forward and backward. Within these joints are discs that absorb shock. Around them are various muscles that facilitate movement. Sometimes, a problem occurs in the TMJs, leading to uncomfortable symptoms.
Symptoms of TMJ include:
While there are certain medical conditions, such as arthritis, that may be involved in the development of TMJ disorder, the most common cause that we see is bruxism.
Bruxism is the term used to describe chronic grinding of teeth or clenching of the jaw. This may be an unconscious habit that an individual does in response to stress. Often, the pressure that is placed on the jaw occurs during sleep. When bruxism is identified as an underlying cause of TMJ disorder, we can treat the problem with a comfortable oral appliance.
The appliance used to treat TMJ disorder (and bruxism) is a night guard. This is similar to the mouth guards worn by athletes. The thin plastic framework is worn over the teeth at night to reduce the force placed on the teeth, gums, and jaws. The custom night guard is made with quality materials and the right thickness from the front to the back of the mouth, ensuring the proper distribution of protection.
In addition to appliance therapy, Dr. Kelley may recommend certain practices to minimize stress on the joints, such as temporarily eating a soft diet or avoiding chewing gum for a short time.