The hinge that joins the top and bottom jaws of your mouth together has an elaborate name. It is the temporal mandibular joint, often shortened to TMJ, and a joint exists on each side of your head. If you place your fingers in front of each ear, and chew, you’ll feel this complicated muscle flexing. It doesn’t get much attention, or appreciation, until it hurts. One of my patients, Tom, was playing football with family last Thanksgiving. His 6-foot, 4-inch nephew bashed into his TMJ during a tackle and Tom was still in pain on the following Monday. He called my office, concerned that he’d damaged a tooth, or several teeth, during that incident. I checked the teeth and they were intact, but I advised Tom to avoid crunchy food and cut his meat in much smaller pieces for a while.
Aside from impact injury, I’ve also seen avid gum-chewing patients with chronic tenderness. That is their choice, as long as they chew sugarless gum!
My third concern about the TMJ is related to patients who no longer have most of their back molars. When those powerful chewing surfaces are gone, the joint functions differently. It wears out, changing the function of muscles at the same time, and cannot repair itself. Patients with missing molars often have chronic headaches from this wear and tear. Some require surgery, which I don’t perform, to rebuild the joint. Instead of deteriorating to this point before acting, I strongly encourage patients to consider dental implants to replace their back molars.
Contact Winterset Dental today to find out which treatment is right for you.