The commonly used abbreviation 'TMJ' in the dental industry is not an illness of any kind. In dental terms, TMJ merely stands for 'Temporomandibular Joints.' What people are really referring to is 'TMD,' which means 'Temporomandibular Disorder.'

TMD is used to describe signs and symptoms of disharmony between the jaw joints, the teeth, and muscles in the head and neck. This frequently results in clenching which is also caused bruxing. This mostly occurs at night and is thought to be a primitive protective reflex to protect teeth that are in premature contact. Most people are very adaptive to this reflex and may rarely or never exhibit signs or symptoms. At times some people reach their adaptive limit and signs or symptoms will surface.

Do I have TMD?' Here are tell-tale signs and symptoms to watch for:

a.. A 'clicking' in the jaw joints
b.. Pain in the joints of your jaw
c.. Muscular pain in the jaw region
d.. Jaw joint locking at times
e.. Difficulty opening the mouth fully
f.. Possible pain in the neck and shoulder area
g.. Hearing disturbances and congestion in the ears
h.. Chipping and broken teeth, grooves on the roots of teeth
i.. Sensitive teeth
j.. Headaches

TMD can be tricky to diagnose as many of the signs and symptoms can also be caused by other disease processes. Also they may come and go at different times. Many factors in a patient's life can exacerbate the symptoms.

Emotional stress, nutrition, hormonal factors, inadequate sleep are just a few.

Your TMJ and TMD questions will be clearly answered during your visit with Dr. Guyot. At your initial exam if it is determined you may benefit from occlusal therapy related to TMD we will schedule an occlusal exam. Here, he will carefully observe exactly how your teeth, jaw joints and muscles coordinate when you bite. Signs and symptoms will be quantified and documented. He will draw conclusions on what factors are producing the discomfort. He will then suggest the best method to treat your condition.

More often than not, Dr. Guyot will recommend the initial use of an orthotic appliance to simulate a perfect bite with no premature tooth contact. The orthotic appliance also allows your jaw joints to function in their most natural physiologic position. Now there will be harmony between the teeth, muscles and the joints.

The orthotic is a hard plastic device that fits over the upper teeth. It is worn constantly (except for meals) usually for 3 weeks. Over this time the patient's symptoms are closely measured. Those symptoms which decrease or are eliminated are inferred to be related to the bite disharmony.

If there is significant relief of symptoms Dr. Guyot will recommend an equilibration of the patients bite. This entails very precise adjustment of the teeth to eliminate the prematurities which caused the TMD to start with.

The choices are yours all the way at Orange County's comfortable dental office, Dr. Guyot's.
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