Jaw Joint Problems (TMJ)
TMJ stands for ‘temporo-mandibular joint.’ This is the joint connecting your lower jaw to your skull. If your teeth do not fit together properly or if there is an imbalance between your bite position and your jaw joints’ resting position, problems might occur. These issues are called ‘occlusal’ or ‘TMJ’ problems.
These problems can present themselves on the teeth, gums, temporo-mandibular joint or the muscles that move the jaw:
Potential signs of occlusal problems include: teeth that are out of alignment, severely worn or broken teeth (from clenching and grinding), fractured teeth/fillings or loose crowns. Your teeth may also be tender to bite or may ache constantly.
Loose teeth or receding gums can be aggravated by an incorrect bite.
Clicking, grinding or pain in the jaw joints, ringing or buzzing in your ears and difficulty opening or closing your mouth could all be due to your teeth not connecting together properly.
If your jaw is slightly in the wrong position, the muscles that move the jaw have to work a lot harder and can get tired. This can lead to muscle spasm. The main symptoms are continual headaches or migraine; pain behind the eyes; sinus pain and pains in the neck and shoulders. Sometimes even back muscles are involved.
Many people have imperfect occlusion and missing teeth, yet never have symptoms because they adapt to their problems. Occasionally, symptoms may appear and then go away again. A sure sign of ‘occlusal’ problems are grinding or clenching of the teeth. Nine out of ten people who grind aren’t aware of it but your dentist should be able to see the signs on your teeth.
Dr Charl du Toit has a special interest in treating TMJ problems. He is a member of the ‘British Society of Occlusal Studies’. www.bsos.org.uk