Patients who have missing teeth can sometimes suffer with painful jaw disorders called TMJ. This happens because the remaining teeth lean into the gap left by the missing teeth. This alters the way the top and bottom teeth sit together, known as the the bite, and can cause painful alignment problems.
Tooth loss is just one cause of TMJ and there is some argument about what can actually lead to this painful disorder. Many physicians think it may be caused by stress and the related unconscious teeth grinding, or bruxism as it is also known. This may well be the cause of TMJ but it is undoubtedly caused by some of the more common dental issues such as tooth loss.
TMJ is a disorder that affects the major bones and joints in the head, specifically the jaw which is also known as the temporomandibular joint (this joint lends its name to the condition). Because the joint is so regularly in use, it is vital for talking and eating, TMJ can be a particularly irritating condition rendering the most mundane of tasks excruciating. Sufferers of TMJ complain of pain that covers the whole spectrum from minor to severe and intermittent to permanent. As anyone who has experienced pain in the jaw will tell you, it is no joke and can be extremely unpleasant if not properly treated.
Unfortunately for sufferers of TMJ the main symptom is pain. This usually manifests itself in the jawbone but can also appear in the neck and face and, in severe cases, in the ear causing temporary hearing loss. Dentists can test for TMJ by performing the clench test as part of your regular check up. The test involves fully clenching the teeth together to ascertain if it is causing any pain. This may indicate a change in bite which could lead to TMJ. If TMJ is suspected the dentist can carry out further inspection of the teeth and jawbone and possibly refer you to a surgeon should he suspect TMJ.
Patients can get short-term relief from TMJ with over the counter pain relief. The use of hot and cold packs can also minims the swelling and pain caused by TMJ. If you are suffering unexplained pain in the neck, face or jaw ask a West London dentist to perform a test for TMJ at your next appointment.