What are the Effects of TMJ on Teeth?

T. Carrier
T. Carrier
A person with TMJ.
A person with TMJ.

The primary effect of TMJ on teeth is pain and sensitivity. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint disorder, a condition typically caused by jaw misalignment. Inflammation of the temperomandibular joint results from the misalignment of the jaw. Individuals afflicted with the disorder often engage in teeth clinching and teeth grinding.

TMJ — also known as Costen’s Syndrome — usually results from an improper bite due to a misalignment in the jaw. A number of factors may affect alignment, such as degenerative disease, improper chewing, and excessive movement of the jaw. This abnormality stresses various areas that help connect the jaw to the skull, including nerves, muscles, and cartilage. Headaches and a stiff jaw typically result from the condition, as does inflammation of the temporomandibular joint. Other symptoms may range from a dull ache in the face to ringing or pain in the ears.

Ice packs may be used to reduce swelling related to TMJ.
Ice packs may be used to reduce swelling related to TMJ.

The stress of TMJ on teeth creates many symptoms. Biting and chewing may prove problematic due to the misplaced jaw. Thus, tooth tenderness and subsequent pain may develop. Excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth can also occur, which may facilitate pain as well. The pain is usually caused by a nerve that runs through the temporomandibular joint known as the trigeminal nerve.

TMJ syndrome may cause tooth and ear pain.
TMJ syndrome may cause tooth and ear pain.

Chronic complications of TMJ on teeth can cause erosion of bones supporting the teeth and the teeth themselves. For example, inflammation of the pulp in the teeth can occur after a tooth has been eroded. This condition produces pain and ultimately damages the nerves in the teeth. Teeth and bones may also click and pop because the teeth shift in the jaw due to a lack of proper support.

Unnecessary tooth extractions are sometimes performed because TMJ goes undiagnosed.
Unnecessary tooth extractions are sometimes performed because TMJ goes undiagnosed.

TMJ often goes undiagnosed because its symptoms are wrongly attributed to a different cause. As a result, unnecessary root canals or tooth extractions are performed. A dentist specializing in TMJ issues or a neuromuscular dentist can perhaps best assess a TMJ case.

Treatments may first address the resulting damage from TMJ on teeth. Dental work may be needed to care for any periodontal disease, and pain killers can help reduce toothaches or other TMJ pain. Biofeedback machines may help a patient pinpoint specific problems in the muscle or nervous systems and focus therapeutic exercises in those regions. Splints worn in the mouth at night could prevent teeth grinding or clinching. Long-term treatment approaches generally focus on correcting the malformed jaw alignment, either through orthodontic means, behavior modification, or reconstructive surgery in the most serious cases.

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Discussion Comments

Raynbow

@rundocuri- I had jaw reconstruction surgery for TMJ, and it alleviated all of the pain and complications that went along with it. It was definitely worth having it done because now my jaw operates normally.

The type of surgery that your friend will need will depend on how bad her TMJ problems are. Some people will benefit from surgery on either the upper or lower jaw, while others will require surgery on both.

Regardless of the type of jaw surgery your friend eventually has, she should expect to have some pain at first, and a stiff jaw for several weeks to several months. She might even have to have her jaws wired shut for a while if she has to have surgery on both the upper and lower jaws. Her doctor will be able to prescribe pain medications as needed, and will most likely give her jaw exercises to do as she recovers.

Rundocuri

I have a friend who was told that she needs surgery to treat her TMJ. Has anyone had this type of surgery? What should my fiend expect from the procedure and recovery time?

Heavanet

TMJ can also cause cracked teeth from the pressure on them caused by a misaligned jaw. I had a cracked tooth, and finding this problem led to my dentist diagnosing my TMJ issues.

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    • A person with TMJ.
      By: sakura
      A person with TMJ.
    • Ice packs may be used to reduce swelling related to TMJ.
      By: liveostockimages
      Ice packs may be used to reduce swelling related to TMJ.
    • TMJ syndrome may cause tooth and ear pain.
      By: WavebreakmediaMicro
      TMJ syndrome may cause tooth and ear pain.
    • Unnecessary tooth extractions are sometimes performed because TMJ goes undiagnosed.
      By: starush
      Unnecessary tooth extractions are sometimes performed because TMJ goes undiagnosed.