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Jaw Joint Problems

TMJ - Temporomandibular joint disorders (known as TMJ disorders or TMD) are the most common condition affecting the jaw joint.


Discomfort is often felt in front of the ear and in the muscles around the angle of the jaw and up to the temple. You may also experience clicking in the joint, difficulty opening the mouth, limited jaw movement and occasionally a blocked sensation in the ears. This can lead to facial pain, headaches, discomfort and clicking when biting or chewing, migraines as well as neck and shoulder pain, even back pain. If you recognise any of these symptoms or suffer with these on a daily basis, you will need to see us to discuss treatment or in extreme cases a referral.


As part of our routine dental examinations here at SW1 Dental & Implant Clinic, we can examine the jaw joint for any discomfort, clicking or popping, a tell-tale signs of jaw joint problems. In addition we look for indications of unnatural wear to the surface of the teeth that may be caused by clenching or grinding.


Treatment includes wearing a special custom made appliance at night for most nights for upto two months and then 2-3 times a week to reprogram the muscles of mastication that are over active.  The appliance is made to measure and fitted onto your bite accurately, so that when you bite on it, your teeth are in a position where your muscles are relaxed. This also stops your teeth from becoming worn down by grinding and protects them. Depending on the origin and severity of your problem, you may need orthodontic treatment or maxillofacial surgery. Other solutions may include replacing missing teeth or adjusting any ill-fitting bridgework that you may have.

The important thing to do is see your dentist as soon as possible so your problem does not become worse over time and require more drastic measures to correct.




Advice- Some simple techniques that may alleviate the symptoms in the short-term include:

  • Avoiding chewing gum or eating hard food [e.g. Crusty bread, tough meat or raw vegetables]

  • Avoid biting into hard food on the front teeth ( e.g. baguettes, carrot/ celery sticks)

  • Avoiding episodes of wide mouth opening [e.g.Yawning, singing, shouting]

  • Avoid clenching or grinding the teeth during the day by keeping the teeth a few millimetres apart at rest

  • Avoid habits such as biting your nails, lips or cheeks, finger sucking or pencil chewing

  • Avoid activities where there is awkward jaw posturing for a while [e.g. Scuba diving, snorkelling, playing a musical instrument or contact sports]

  • When opening the jaw, try to move it in a simple up-and-down direction without pushing the lower jaw forwards

  • Be aware that the discomfort is made worse by stress. Try to relax more and sleep comfortably to ensure a restful night’s sleep.

  • Many patients clench and grind their teeth at night (or daytime in some cases). This can put stress on the joint and build up of lactic acid in the muscles leading to pain and discomfort in the muscles around the jaws. Clenching and grinding of the teeth can lead to pain and fracture lines in the teeth and chipping and wear of the teeth, or drifting of the teeth if there is periodontal disease.


Tooth substance is precious and in cases where patients clench and grind at night it is better to wear an appliance, so if anything is worn it is a replaceable and not your natural teeth.


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