Diseases related to the jaw joint and muscles and their treatment is one of the branches of dentistry. Jaw joint is at the junction of the lower and upper jaws, and is a complex structure consisting of the jawbone and muscle. With the contraction and relaxation of the jaw muscles and the synchronized movement of the movable parts of the jaw joint, the mouth opens and closes, the person can talk, chew or yawn. Jaw muscles and joints affect each other as they work together.
For example, stress-induced teeth grinding and bad posture weaken the muscles, which causes the lower and upper jaws to approach each other. When the jaws approach each other, pressure occurs in the jaw joint and this pressure wears down the lower teeth.
Jaw joint disorders affect the system consisting of some of the head and neck muscles, ligaments (the hard connective tissue that holds the bones together), teeth, cheeks, lips and salivary glands. Complaints about the jaw joint may not only be present in the joint area, but also in the jaws, eyes, ears, nose and throat areas.
Causes of Jaw Joint Disorders
- Teeth clenching or grinding, lip biting, nail biting, gum chewing habits
- Injuries and accidents,
- Poor posture
- Excessive fatigue of the jaw muscles,
- Long-term dental treatments,
- As a result of excessive opening of the jaw during general anesthesia,
- Unilateral chewing habit,
- Some systemic diseases,
- Psychological disorders,
- Incompatibility and crowding between teeth.
Symptoms of Jaw Joint Disorders
- Clenching and grinding of the teeth and accordingly the pain felt in the jaw area or cheeks,
- Pressure and pain originating from the jaw joint to the ear, neck, teeth, even nose and eyes,
- Complaints such as tinnitus, dizziness and fatigue,
- Inadequacy in jaw movements (inability to open the jaw fully, cracking, grinding, sticking of the jaw when opening the mouth, opening by sliding to one side),
- Painful and difficult opening of the mouth during yawning and/or eating,
- Difficulty in biting and/or taking a bite with the front teeth while eating,
- Permanent or occasional differences in the closure of the teeth (distance between the upper jaw and the lower jaw when the teeth are closed, the lower and upper teeth not matching each other thus preventing a regular closure),
- Pain and feeling of tiredness, swelling of face,
- Ear pain, ringing or hearing problems,
- Dizziness, fainting,
- Teeth becoming sensitive, wearing, breaking and/or swinging.
- In some cases, patients also need help from otolaryngologists, neurologists, physical therapists and psychiatrists.
Examination and Assessment
Clinical examination of the jaw joint takes approximately 30-35 minutes. Physician examination is important for exact and accurate determination of the cause of jaw disease. A person’s medical history provides information about their health in general. The type and severity of symptoms also give important clues to the physician. During the examination, the physician checks the pain, muscle tension and sensitivity in the muscle and jaw joint with the palpation (touch) technique. In addition, they put their little finger in the patient’s ear and feels how the jaw joint works. They can detect the clicking sound in the joint with a stethoscope. They can measure how much the mouth opens with a ruler. Some diagnostic tests may be requested after the examination.
It is understood whether there is joint damage, fracture, tumor by tomographic or direct x-rays. Magnetic resonance (MRI) also provides detailed information about soft tissue and shows disc and fiber damage. In addition, the physician may request a dental plaster. In dental plaster, the teeth are modeled and a model is made from plaster. This model is passed to a mechanical movement stimulator. This device assists demonstration of the lower jaw movement, whether the teeth can come together, damage to joints and surrounding muscles due to biting.
All these examinations and tests reveal the condition about the causes and magnitude of the disease, and the physician determines the best treatment method afterwards.
Jaw Joint Disorder Treatment Applications
Main aim of the treatment is to regulate the pressure in the jaw joint and to achieve normal jaw functions. In the treatment of jaw joint disorders, various methods can be applied with the recommendation of the physician. For the treatment of jaw joint disorders, correction of regional factors causing discomfort (necessary dental treatments) is ensured, dental plaque application is performed to eliminate excessive forces on the jaw joint, intra-articular injections called arthrocentesis are applied for disc-related disorders. Orthopedic appliance (splint) use is also among the available treatment methods. It has been proven by scientific research that diseases can be taken under control by educating the patient. At this point, it is very important for the patient to take certain precautions, follow the recommendations and protect themselves.
We can list the issues that the patient should comply with during the treatment as follows:
- They should protect their teeth well, take care of their oral and dental health,
- Pay attention to good chin position,
- Prefer soft foods,
- Perform the jaw exercises recommended by the physician,
- Follow medical treatment for pain and take medications regularly.