Jaw pain, along with a number of other symptoms such as radiating pain in the face, jaw, or neck, jaw muscle stiffness, limited movement or locking of the jaw, painful clicking, popping or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth and a change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together could be a sign of TMJ disorder.
What is TMJ disorder?
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) is pain and dysfunction of the muscles that move the jaw and joints which connect the lower jaw to the skull. People who suffer from TMJ will experience pain, restricted movement and joint noise during any movement of the jaw.
Can my dentist fix jaw pain?
There are a few different methods dentists use to treat TMJ once it has been diagnosed.
Appliance Therapy (Splint or Mouth Guard)
Typically the first line of treatment provided by your dentist will be the use of a splint. The TMJ splint is worn to reduce stress on the jaw, allow the muscles to function optimally and/or to cover the deflective interferences affecting the bite so that the lower jaw can be repositioned into the socket properly. If a splint helps relieve the pain, it is possible that your bite or parafunction was causing the problem.
Many TMJ cases can be corrected with occlusal equilibration which involves selective reshaping of the biting surfaces of the teeth and is often the best choice for eliminating deflective interferences so that the jaw can close properly.
Once the lower jaw is able to close properly into position within the temporomandibular socket, your pain may be relieved immediately. Pain relief typically is achieved when the muscles are able to function properly.
Botox Treatment for TMJ
Once reserved for lessening the tell-tale signs of aging, such as annoying wrinkles and frown lines, Botox injections are being used more frequently in some dental offices as "off label" treatments for more troublesome maladies such as TMJ. Scientific studies have shown that patients who received the injections experienced significant improvements in pain, function, ability to open their mouth and levels of tenderness to palpation.
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Oral Surgeons are dental specialists with specific training and expertise in the surgery of the mouth, face and jaw, including the removal of the teeth. Dental graduates must study for an additional minimum of five years to become an oral surgeon, which includes the following procedures, plus specialist training in sedation techniques and working under general anaesthetic.
What are some of the procedures that an Oral Surgeon performs?
WISDOM TEETH REMOVAL
It is not unusual for wisdom teeth to become "stuck", wedged in or what we call impacted. They are the last teeth to come through into the mouth and often there is not enough room for them. Most people have four wisdom teeth but up to 10% of the population are missing one or more. When wisdom teeth become impacted they cause a number of problems and in this case, you may be recommended to see an oral surgeon.
SURGICAL DENTAL IMPLANT PLACEMENT
This is the process of drilling into the jawbone to place a titanium screw which will act as your new tooth’s root, ideally for the rest of your life. This is an extremely important part of the procedure as extreme accuracy is required to avoid nerve damage, place at the right angle for correct function and ensure the implant is not drilled in too deep. Placing the titanium implant must be precise to the millimetre, which is why specialist training is required otherwise there can be serious repercussions.
SALIVARY GLAND PROBLEMS
Most salivary gland problems are caused by a blockage with a salivary stone in the duct or by infection. These can usually be detected and removed. Occasionally however, the submandibular gland has to be removed in which case an incision is made just below the jaw bone and the submandibular gland removed.
Some people suffer from disorders affecting one or both TMJs (Temporomandibular Joints or commonly referred to as the jaw joint), muscles and surrounding tissues. These disorders often cause jaw pain, headaches and restricted jaw function.
Can my dentist do oral surgery?
There are surgical procedures, such as extractions, which your general dentist may be able to carry out but unless they have had significant continued training in the field, most will refer procedures onto oral surgeons. However, there are dentists who take interest in oral surgery and pursue further personal training to become confident and proficient in oral surgeries and broaden their overall skillset.
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Children’s dentistry is quite literally the dental treatment of children, aged anywhere from toddler to teen. Although children may not need dental treatment that can be as complex as some adult dental treatments, e.g. implants, crowns and bridges etc., it is crucial that your child starts seeing their dentist early in their life to prevent dental related issues from arising. Developing positive oral hygiene habits from a young age can often be the difference between a positive or negative experience with their oral health.
What dental work does my child need?
Most children’s dentistry is preventive. Modern dentistry puts a strong focus on teaching good habits regarding brushing and flossing, seeing your child regularly to monitor and maintain their ongoing oral health and providing fissure sealants or other protective measures. Fissure sealants basically form a protective barrier on your child’s tooth, filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth, causing cavities. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years. Of course if your child is experiencing more serious dental concerns your general dentist can either provide treatment or refer you to a specialist, however these are the most common dental services for children.
What age should my child start seeing the dentist?
Technically, once teeth start coming through in your child’s mouth you can start to take them to the dentist. Firstly, for promotion of great oral health but secondly, to help them create a positive association with their dentist and create a good relationship with the whole team so that they develop a positive outlook to their future dental visits. This will also allow for your dentist to monitor oral function, normal development and cleanliness and if necessary, provide advice on areas to improve.
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