What is TMJ? Or do you have TMD?

More than fifteen percent of American adults live with some form of chronic facial pain like jaw pain, headaches, or earaches. About ten million of those people can attribute that pain to TMJ Disorders.

What is the difference between TMJ and TMD?

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are located on each side of the head just in front of the ears. It is the hinge that connects your jaw to your skull. Along with muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones, your TMJ helps to make the different movements required for eating and talking.
Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) covers multiple conditions that affect the TM joints. TMD can occur when your jaw opens, closes or moves from side to side. TMD pain can be experienced in the jaw joint as well as in the muscles that control your jaw’s movement.

What causes TMD?

Because the TMJ combines hinge action with sliding movement it is a complicated structure that is easily damaged. The areas of bone that interact with the joints are covered in cartilage and separated by small disks to absorb shock. This set-up normally keeps movement smooth. Erosion of the disks, slipping of the discs out of alignment, damage to the cartilage, or injury to the joint from a hard impact are all risks to joint’s efficiency.
There’s no definitive cause of TMD and it can be hard to pinpoint for each person, especially if there’s no problems in the joint itself. Symptoms can arise from problems with the joint or the muscles around it. Injury to your jaw, trauma in the muscles of your head and neck such as whiplash, teeth grinding, arthritis, improper bite, jaw dislocation, and stress can all be contributing factors.
Stress from heavy lifting or taxing situations can aggravate TMD because it generally causes you to clenching and grinding of the teeth.

What are the symptoms of TMD?
TMD affects nearly twice as many women as men and is most common women between the ages of 20 and 40.
Symptoms include:

  • Pain in or around your ear.
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
  • Dizziness
  • Aching facial pain.
  • Headaches and neck or shoulder aches.
  • Swelling on the side of your face.
  • A tired feeling in the muscles of your face.
  • Tenderness in your jaw.
  • Jaw pain that is worse in the morning or late afternoon.
  • Jaw pain while chewing, yawning, or biting.
  • Difficulty opening your mouth wide.
  • Jaws that get stuck or locked open.
  • Tooth sensitivity when no dental problems can be found.
  • Clicking, popping, or grinding noises when you open and close your mouth. This may not include pain.
  • Trouble chewing as if your upper and lower teeth aren’t fitting properly together anymore.

How do you know if you have TMD?
Because there is such a variety of symptoms and there are many other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, you should see your dentist for a diagnosis.
Your dentist will first want to rule out other causes such as tooth decay, sinus problems, arthritis, or gum disease.  Then she will ask you some questions about your health history and conduct a physical exam. During the exam she’ll check your joints for pain and tenderness, listen for clicks, pops, or grinding during movement, make sure your jaw doesn’t lock open or closed, and test your bite. If TMD is suspected you may need x-rays, an MRI, or a CT scan to get a more detailed picture of your joint and disc health.
In most cases discomfort from TMD will eventually go away with some simple self-care practices. If your symptoms aren’t going away, try to stick with conservative treatments. If irreversible treatments are recommended, make sure to get a second opinion first. We’ll cover these self-care practices and treatment options more in our next blog.



Is Dental Work Safe During Pregnancy?

shutterstock_144260533Yes, most dental procedures are perfectly safe while you are pregnant!

Pregnancy is full of health questions, not just about yourself, but about the baby that you’re growing. We believe that pregnancy should be a time of joy, not a time of worry. So let’s get some of those dental questions off your mind.

Pregnancy is only nine months, can’t I just be a few months late on my bi-annual cleaning?
Absolutely not. You are actually more likely to experience dental problems when you are pregnant. Pregnancy Gingivitis is caused by the changing hormone levels in your body. Any change in these levels allows bacteria to thrive in your mouth and gums. And thriving bacteria means increased periodontal disease. If you notice any tenderness, bleeding, or gum swelling, contact your dentist as soon as possible.
Morning sickness is also a concern to your oral health. Stomach acid from the nausea and vomiting common during the first trimester rapidly breaks down the protective enamel of your teeth. Try using a bland toothpaste if brushing your teeth is triggering your gag reflex. And always make sure to rinse your mouth with water or (preferably) mouthwash after a bout of vomiting.
Preventative dental treatments, exams, and check-ups are critical in order to avoid infections that have been linked to preterm birth.

Does my dentist need to know I’m pregnant?
Absolutely! We need to know about any changes that you’re going through. Pay close attention to anything that seems different in your mouth and let us know when you come in. We also need to know about any medications and pre-natal vitamins you may be taking as they affect your dental plan or interact with prescriptions that we might need to provide you for any infections or pain management.

Are procedures like root canals and fillings safe?
If at all possible, procedures like this should be done during the second trimester. The first and third trimesters are the most critical times during a baby’s development and it’s wise to take as few risks possible during this time. The second trimester is generally considered to be the most comfortable – relatively free of morning sickness and body discomfort.
Lidocaine is a Category B drug and can be safely used in small amounts. The most important thing during dental work is your comfort though. When you are uncomfortable that causes your body stress and that stress is shared by your baby. So if you’re pain free then the procedure will be safer for everyone involved. There are many antibiotics that are also Category B that can be prescribed after your treatment. Penicillin, amoxicillin and clindamycin are all considered to be safe during pregnancy.
All elective treatments such as teeth whitening should wait until after you deliver your baby.
Of course if you have an emergency then it can’t wait. But we will do our best to minimize any risks. The consequences of not treating an infection are far worse the risks presented by treatment.

Are X-rays safe while I’m pregnant?
Routine x-rays can usually be postponed until after birth. But if you have an emergency an x-ray might be necessary. According to the American College of Radiology, no single diagnostic x-ray has a radiation dose significant enough to cause adverse effects in a developing embryo or fetus. Advances in x-ray technology have made them far safer than in previous decades. But, if an x-ray is needed to proceed with your care, a lead apron should cover your body to add extra protection for you and your baby. You can never be too safe.

Proper oral care should be an integral part of your pregnancy plan. Make sure that you get your regular cleaning, treat any problems as soon as you notice them, brush regularly, and try to eat a healthy diet with plenty of calcium.