See What We Can Do for an Aching Jaw
Bruxism and TMJ fall under this area of dentistry known as the occlusion or the bite. It turns out that the joint, which is what TMJ stands for, the temple bone, the T, the mandible, M, and J for joint – TMJ – is the hinge that gets into trouble when the teeth are not set exactly correctly. If you can imagine for a minute biting down on something that’s a little bit high on one side and tipping the jaw, the kind of stress that it can place here on the joint can be extremely uncomfortable if you don’t manage that properly.
This is an area of dentistry that I actually taught in dental school for about 10 years. That area at the time was very confused with it being a psychological problem, and you know, “It’s just all in your head. You’ll get over it. Here, you just need to quit grinding your teeth,” and stuff like that. That’s not really what’s going on there.
The TMJ, when it’s truly that problem, the teeth are causing the issue, okay? You can have other things wrong with the TM joint like a cancer in there or arthritis in there or something like that. That’s not the typical TMJ that a dentist will deal with. He’s really after the one that involves your teeth being out of alignment. You can use a temporary acrylic bite positioner, which is referred to as a night guard or a bite guard or occlusal guard. Those kinds of things can be used temporarily all the way to the point of getting Invisalign, have braces to straighten the teeth out and fixing the bite, or making the crowns that you need to have done, or putting a bridge in where you lost some teeth, and getting that balance between the two joints reestablished so that you’re healthy again.
So TMJ definitely does belong in the realm of the dentist, and it’s something that should be looked into and managed always with any dental care that you get.