TMJ or TMD

The TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) makes chewing possible. Located in front of the ear, it’s the hinge that makes your lower jaw move. The joint’s amazing anatomy makes movement in many directions possible. The complex anatomy can lead to complex problems called Temporomandibular Dysfunction, or TMD.

TMJ problems include headaches, neck aches, earaches, back aches and tooth aches to name a few. The location of the TMJ, in front of the ear, leads to some painful issues. The space is tight and full of bundles of highly sensitive nerves, short ligaments and a moving disk. The ligaments stretch while chewing and work with eight muscles through the head, simultaneously! When things go wrong, it’s a perfect storm situation.

What is the main cause of TMJ?

TMJ problems are stress related usually. Muscles of the head and neck, and nerves, react to stress levels, emotions, inadequate sleep, food choices and bruxism (teeth grinding). Muscle strain on the upper back and neck, the tongue and chewing muscles add to TMJ pain.

The part of the brain that controls muscle movement and emotions are wired together. Every emotion has muscle responses. Emotional trauma, life and work stress all trigger muscle and joint symptoms. A history of emotional trauma may start TMD.

A lack of sleep and muscle pains can be the first symptoms of TMD. Teeth grinding is associated with sleep loss and tired chewing muscles.  Sleep Apnea (breathing interruption) also deprives sleep. A night guard or sleep apnea device may be needed to help alleviate these problems and relieve the TMJ.

Bite problems also create TMD issues and Dr. Kriston may suggest adjusting the bite to create stability and reduce muscle activity. A removable appliance, called an orthotic, is used to diagnose TMJ problems. If the orthotic helps Dr. Kriston may recommend dental crowns to duplicate the orthotic bite as a long term solution.

Can TMJ go away on its own?

The TMJ may go away on its own if the stressors are eliminated. Stress, especially emotional stress, causes the muscles to be on high alert. The best treatment for a TMJ problem is to improve your environment. A job, relationship or lifestyle choice may all be influential. Therapy for evaluating all these is helpful.

How do you relax the TMJ?

You can relax the TMJ with behavioral changes that reduce stress. Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, Tai Chi are all great ways to reduce stress. Behavioral therapy can also be effective at stopping habits that may be inducing stress.

What will happen if the TMJ is not treated?

If the TMJ is not treated the problems can become debilitating. Severe TMJ can keep you from social interactions and working. Without treatment, a TMJ problem can be serious. Dr. Kriston has specialized training in treating TMD; from managing pain to resolving bite problems, or creating an appliance to support joint function and identifying lifestyle factors.


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Michael Kriston, DDS

903 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Suite 120 Danville, CA 94526

Phone: (925) 838-2900 | Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM