The temporomandibular joint is unique because it allows the lower jaw to move laterally in addition to up and down. Like all joints there is cartilage that cushions this joint. Slipping of this cartilage can cause clicking. This combined with sore muscles is often referred to as "TMJ". This means that the muscles are sore and the joint is clicking.
The most common cause of temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ) are the following:
- Grinding the teeth during the day or at night. Also known as bruxism, grinding can cause severe wear of the teeth.
- Excessive gum chewing.
- Excessive caffeine intake.
- Stress combined with a lack of exercise.
- Trauma to the head or neck.
All studies show that TMJ is not caused by orthodontic treatment. Obviously, an improved bite should improve the TMJ problems since the teeth are aligned and meet in a more normal position.
If you experience TMJ, the following procedures should be followed:
- Stop all caffeine. Even decaffeinated drinks still contain some caffeine. From my clinical experience, eliminating caffeine will reduce the grinding of the teeth.
- Do not chew gum.
- Try to handle stress since stress is related to grinding of the teeth.
- Wear a mouthguard at night while sleeping to cushion the teeth. You can try a sports mouthguard initially.
- Have splints made by your dentist. The splints do not stop the grinding but can cushion and reposition the joint.
Good luck with your TMJ problems. Remember the most important thing is to control the stress and keep the teeth apart when you are not chewing.