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1401 Hospital Drive, Suite 102, Hurricane, WV 25526
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How common are TMJ disorders?

TMJ disorders, which are a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement, affect over 35 million Americans. The disorder can affect men and women; however, 90% of those who seek treatment for TMJ-related pain and dysfunction are women in their childbearing years.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health, TMJ disorders are the second most commonly occurring musculoskeletal conditions resulting in pain and disability (after chronic low back pain), with an annual cost estimated at $4 billion.

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Can I have a TMJ disorder and a sleep disorder simultaneously?

Yes, and it is not uncommon. For many years, TMJ disorders were treated separately from sleep disorders. However, today the correlation between TMJ disorders and sleep-disordered breathing is becoming increasingly well documented. In fact, dentists have reported that as many as 80% of the patients they see for Craniofacial Pain/TMJ disorders have sleep problems (and vice versa) according to information that appears in Craniofacial Pain: A Handbook for Assessment, Diagnosis and Management, which was published by the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain.

In brief, the development and functioning of your TMJs plays an important role in development and functioning of your airway .This interrelationship becomes even clearer when we consider the fact that 85% of the nasal airway is made up of the maxillary (i.e., upper jaw) bones. As such, it’s not surprising that patients who suffer from craniofacial pain and TMJ disorders often experience poor sleep quality and/or disruption of their sleep at the same time. The converse is also true; that is, patients with sleep apnea who have been referred for CPAP or oral appliance therapy will often benefit from specific evaluation related to TMJ disorders.

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Can my TMJ disorder be cured?

There are many different types of TMJ disorders. Some types of TMJ disorders can be cured while others can be managed effectively without prolonged drug use or surgery. The first goal of treatment for any TMJ disorder is to control your pain and stabilize your jaw joints. Once this has been achieved, the next step will depend on your specific diagnosis. It may involve correcting (or curing) your problem or managing your TMJ disorder so that you can be pain free and get back living your life to its fullest.

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Why can’t I open my mouth very wide?

There are several possible explanations for this. There are approximately 300 muscles that attach to the jaw, skull, and neck. When these muscles are locked into deep spasms they do not move or stretch normally, and this can make it difficult to open (and close) your mouth. Nerve and vascular impingement, degenerative processes such as arthritis, or a dislocated jaw joint may also prevent you from opening your mouth normally. The good news is that once your problem is diagnosed, a dentist with experience managing craniofacial pain and TMJ disorders should be able to help you regain your jaw function and improve your quality of life.

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If my jaw clicks and pops, do I have a TMJ disorder?

Clicking and popping is one of the signs and symptoms of a TMJ disorder; however, the only way we can determine with certainty if you have a TMJ disorder is for you to schedule an appointment and complete a thorough clinical examination. Since TMJ disorders are progressive and often worsen over time, we urge anyone who is experiencing jaw joint clicking or popping to be evaluated. The American Board of Craniofacial Pain maintains a directory on its Web site that may help you locate a dentist who has advanced education and training in assessment, diagnosis and management of TMJ disorders near you.

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Why do muscles in spasm (trigger points) cause so much pain?

Any muscle dysfunction can restrict blood flow in the blood vessels that pass through the muscles and/or compress nerves that run through these muscles. And this can cause pain in the jaw. It can also cause headaches plus pain in the ears, eyes, face, sinuses, teeth, neck, and shoulders – all of which may be signs of a TMJ disorder.

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Why/how does a TMJ disorder affect other parts of the body?

In brief, when the jaw does not function properly, muscle spasms and trigger points (i.e., hyperirritable spots located in a taut band of skeletal muscle) occur. The resulting tension travels like a chain reaction through other parts of the body, most commonly to the neck and shoulders. When this tension is released, people often feel deep relaxation throughout the face and jaw, as well as the neck and shoulders.

TMJ disorders can also alter sleep quality, which puts patients who suffer from them at greater risk for cardiovascular diseases. Studies also show correlations between sleep apnea and depression, obesity, high-blood pressure, stroke, congestive heart failure and diabetes. In fact, it has been proven that people suffering from sleep apnea and diabetes are more resistant to insulin treatment if their sleep disorder remains untreated. These are just a few reasons why airway-related sleep disorders, such as snoring and sleep apnea, must be taken seriously by doctors and patients who have been diagnosed with TMJ disorders. (The link between craniofacial pain, TMJ disorders, and sleep-disordered breathing, has also been recognized by the American Board of Craniofacial Pain, a respected professional organization whose purpose is to conduct certification examinations that now enables dentists to attain Diplomate, American Board of Craniofacial Pain – Craniofacial Dental Sleep Medicine status.)

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How long will I have to use my appliance?

Daytime Appliance: The causes of TMJ disorders vary greatly and no two patients are alike. As such, there is no single answer to this question. Our goal is to wean patients off daytime appliances whenever possible; however, this decision cannot be made until at least 6 months of active, Phase I treatment of your TMJ disorder has been completed.

Nighttime Appliance: We all clench and grind our teeth to some extent while we sleep, which can put up to 3x the normal amount of pressure on your jaw joints. For this reason, we recommend that patients continue to wear their nighttime appliances “forever.” Doing so will protect against further injury to your jaw joint and its related structures and help prevent your TMJ symptoms from reoccurring.

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1401 Hospital Drive, Suite 102, Hurricane, WV 25526 USA
Jeanne K. Bailey, DDS Sleep, TMJ and Craniofacial Pain Treatment Center in West Virginia (304) 757-7428 (304) 757-3535