St Helen Family Dentistry Logo



The "Temporomandibular Joint", more commonly known as the "jaw joint", assists with basic opening and closing movements of your jaw. Unfortunately, this joint is a common area for recurring pain.

Many people think that popping sounds in the jaw indicate a TMJ dysfunction, but many times, your jaw functions properly even if a popping sound occurs when you talk or chew.

At St. Helen Family Dentistry, we offer a TMJ exam that evaluates the joint tissue in the hinge of the jaw. Possible problems include swelling, deterioration of the joint tissue, or damaged joint tissue, which cushions the jawbones while the mouth opens and closes.

Common pain relievers and cold compresses can provide temporary relief for most cases of TMJ. For more serious cases, we recommend alternate treatments.

Often, we will suggest using a bite splint to relieve teeth grinding. We also advise LTTA -- Lips Together Teeth Apart.

What is TMD?

A Common Condition

Temporomandibular Disorder, or TMD, is a relatively common condition that refers to symptoms that result from a misalignment of the teeth, the upper and lower jaws or, in some cases, the jaw joints themselves.

Symptoms can be quite painful and can often be mistaken for other problems. TMD symptoms are numerous and can include:

  • headaches and migraines,
  • muscle pain in your face, neck or shoulders,
  • pain when you open and close your jaw,
  • difficulty chewing,
  • tootheache,
  • pain or ringing in the ears,
  • and dizziness

Your teeth, jaw, and surrounding muscles are all designed to work in harmony, and your teeth should all come together simultaneously. When teeth are missing or out of alignment the jaw is forced to shift position, and the muscles have to work harder than they should to bring the teeth together.

The constant strain on the muscles can also pull the disc that cushions the jaw joint out of position. If this happens, the bones of the jaw joint can rub against each other, not only causing pain but also damaging the joint.

There's a lot of debate about what causes TMD. We may ask you about some suspected causes when we take your medical history. For example, grinding teeth while awake or asleep, trauma such as a car crash or fall, emotional stress, or your teeth being out of alignment, could be contributing factors.

TMD is Treatable

Fortunately, TMD is treatable. First we'll analyze your bite using advanced equipment to identify any problems. Then we may have you wear a custom-crafted orthotic for the next several months to relax the muscles, restore balance to the jaw joint, and stabilize the bite. Once we have stabilized your bite, we can permanently correct it.

Depending on your situation, we may replace missing teeth, move teeth with orthodontic treatment, or place crowns and veneers on some or all of the teeth. Millions of people suffer from TMD, but with treatment, we restore harmony to the teeth, muscles, and jaw joint, and get you out of pain.

Diagnosing Bruxism

Tooth problems while sleeping

Bruxism is the clenching or grinding of the teeth that often occurs while a person is sleeping.

There are many causes of bruxism. Whatever the cause, it Is important to treat bruxism early to prevent damage and restore harmony to your mouth.

Symptoms of bruxism

The symptotoms of bruxism

The symptoms of bruxisam include --

  • a sore, tired jaw.
  • difficulty in opening and closing your mouth.
  • sensitive teeth.
  • headaches or earaches.
  • pain in your jaw joints.

It Is also possible that you clench and grind your teeth, and yet notice no symptoms at all

Dental problems caused by bruxism

When you brux, the force on your teeth is many times greater than during normal chewing. These forces can cause--

  • flattened or worn-down teeth.
  • loss of toothe enamel near the gumline.
  • fractured or loose teeth.
  • damage to the jawbone or jaw joints.

Diagnosis and treatment

Though all of the causes of bruxism are not known, stress is often a factor. If this is the case, a variety of stress reduction techniques may be recommended.

We may also recommend medication to temporarily reduce stress and relieve pain.

Sometimes, missing teeth, worn teeth, spaces between teeth, or teeth that are out of alignment may cause grinding and clenching. In this case, bridges, crowns, equilibration, orthodontics, or other dental treatments can often restore your bite and eliminate grinding and clenching.

A common and effective treatment for stopping the damage caused by bruxism is the use of a nightguard. This is a plastic device that fits over your top or bottom teeth and protects your teeth by absorbing the forces caused by grinding. A custom nightguard, made from models of your teeth, usually offers the most effective and comfortable protection.