It is not uncommon for patients to seek my services because of what they refer to as “TMJ”. Interestingly enough, I have found that many of these patients do not have “TMJ”, but instead have a disorder related to their bite and the muscles that open and close the lower jaw.
In dentistry, we refer to this bite-muscle problem as an “occluso-muscle disorder”.
Think of it this way: your jaw joint, bite and the muscles that open and close the lower jaw are supposed to work together as a finely tuned machine – like the workings of a fine watch. All of the supporting elements have to perfectly line up and work together in order for the system to function properly.
If just one of the three is functioning out of sync, it can lead to a variety of problems. While some patients actually develop an issue with their jaw joints or “TMJ”, most that I see actually have an issue with their jaw muscles and their bite causing various degrees of soreness, headaches and teeth grinding that may be misinterpreted as “TMJ”.
It is only via a thorough examination that a dentist specifically trained in this area can determine whether you have a true TMJ problem and/or a bite problem.
The bad news is that patients with these disorders can expect problems to worsen over time.
The good news is that many times by correcting the bite, issues such as the soreness, headaches, and teeth grinding can be addressed and as a result, damage can be halted.