Jaw Joint Problems and Their Effects on Teeth

TMD, short for temporomandibular disorder, is estimated to affect more than 10 million Americans.  Although most of the focus is on the joint, and surrounding muscles and nerves, the effects on teeth can be just as painful and frustrating.

Mystery pains

Excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth often occurs when the jaw joint isn’t working properly.  As a result, the nerve that runs through the joint may become inflamed or pinched and cause pain in teeth that otherwise look healthy.  When teeth get too much pressure from grinding, the nerve within may also be bruised and cause pain in specific areas of the mouth.

Chipping and cracking

Another common problem we see is a chipping away of the enamel toward the gum line of a tooth in the form of a distinct notch.  These abreactions can be repaired, but it’s much better to prevent them.  Since the enamel doesn’t grow back, this type of damage is progressive and can only be repaired by your dentist.  Chronic (long-term) problems with the jaw joint can also cause erosion of the bone that holds the teeth in place.

Tissue issues

When the jaw joint is painful, patients often have difficulty opening wide enough to brush and floss well. Plaque buildup and lack of stimulation can lead to gingivitis and changes in the shape of the gums around the teeth.  Erosion and gum recession are considered a periodontal condition that may also need to be treated.

Detailed examinations of the teeth and jaw joint are an important service we provide to our patients.  Treatment is focused on realigning the bite and resolving symptoms.  By getting the jaw into a relaxed position, we can prevent unneeded future treatments and help keep you comfortable.