A headache can be an inconvenience, easily relieved with an everyday headache tablet and often there is little thought as to its cause, with many people putting it down to strained neck or shoulder muscles from a bad night’s sleep or a sports strain. For some people, this may be true but very few would think their teeth and jaw might be the cause of their headache.

Neuromuscular dentistry is very in-depth, focussing beyond the look of your smile to the hard and soft tissue, muscles, nerves and joints of your entire head, face and neck. It is an area of dentistry that ensures your jaw is in its optimal position and the complex system of muscles and joints work effectively and harmoniously.

Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the ball and socket joint just in front of your ears, which connects your jaw to your skull, it is one of the most complex, utilised and powerful joint and muscle relationships in your body. It is this joint that enables you to talk, eat and move your jaw from side to side.

Temporomandibular Joint disorder (TMD) is the term used when your teeth and jaw are out of their correct alignment and may be the cause of a variety of significant oral and general health problems. Recurring headaches, especially after sleep, migraines, facial, neck and shoulder pain can all be symptoms of a misaligned bite and jaw. You may have limited jaw movement or hear a clicking sound when you eat, yawn or speak.

There are several oral health factors, which can contribute to the development of TMJ disorders including: 

  • Missing teeth allow adjacent and opposing teeth to move out of alignment
  • Repetitive strain on the jaw muscles caused through stress or physical activity
  • Clenching and grinding of teeth (Bruxism)
  • A fracture or dislocation of the jaw caused by an accident or sport injury
  • Degenerative bone disorders, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis

Treatment for a TMJ disorder at Bexley Dental takes a holistic approach as many TMJ disorders are only temporary and therefore simple treatment methods are often the most appropriate and effective.

Following a thorough examination, a treatment plan is developed and although relief may be experienced quite quickly, if your TMJ problem has developed over a period of time it may take some time to fully complete your treatment.

Your treatment plan may consist of one or several of the following methods:

  • Bite plate – A custom-made acrylic splint used to reduce the pressure placed on the jaw and teeth. Usually worn at night when your bite force is greater than when you are awake. These will need to be adjusted regularly and monitored as your bite and jaw position changes during your treatment and should not have any influence on the positioning of your teeth
  • Cold or warm packs – Placing a cold or warm compress over the tender areas of your jaw muscles can assist with muscle relaxation and bring relief
  • On-site physiotherapy – Gentle massage of your jaw joints and muscles to help stimulate blood flow and aid in eliminating pain and stiffness in your jaw and neck. Instructions on effective head and neck exercises
  • Diet – Changing your diet to include soft foods and cutting your food into smaller pieces to reduce the force required to chew. Avoiding hard, chewy, sticky foods and chewing gum
  • Stress management – Learn and implement effective relaxation therapy techniques to reduce stress and strain caused from clenching muscles

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is a condition that can take several years to develop. If you or a member of your family experience recurring headaches, schedule a comprehensive assessment appointment with our dentists at Bexley Dental.

There are many benefits for patients who undergo treatment for TMD, from decreased or eliminated pain and discomfort to better overall health and longer-lasting dental restorations.

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