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Pacific Coast Smiles | TMJ in Santa Maria

General and Cosmetic Dentistry

426 E. Barcellus

Suites 101 & 102
Santa Maria , CA 93454
(805) 925-8767


iStock_000010826377Small.jpg TMJ is the acronym for temporomandibular joint, which connects your lower jaw (the mandible) to your skull at the temporal bone. This joint controls many jaw functions, like chewing. If the chewing muscles or the joint itself are causing you pain you may have temporamandibular disorder, or TMD. TMD can be caused by stress, continual clenching of the jaw muscles, or teeth grinding.

Some of the symptoms of TMD are:

  • Pain when opening or closing mouth
  • Trouble chewing
  • Jaw becoming stuck open or shut
  • Headaches or ear pain
  • Clicking or popping sounds when opening your mouth
  • Teeth Grinding

Many of these symptoms can often be associated with other health problems, so only a medical professional can tell you if it is due to TMD. Teeth grinding is an especially problematic symptom because it can lead to further problems. Prolonged teeth grinding, or bruxism, can cause enamel to wear off teeth and expose dentin. This material is softer than enamel and more susceptible to decay. Sensitivity to hot and cold food or drink may also develop from excessive teeth grinding.

If you suspect you may have TMD come in for a consultation. We can help diagnose you and provide relief for your symptoms. Pain relievers and hot/cold compresses are short term methods to provide relief for pain symptoms. A night guard can be used to help prevent or lessen the effects of teeth grinding at night. This can lead to a more permanent solution. In very severe cases of TMD surgery may be required, but behavioral treatments to change the way you use your jaw muscles are usually enough to provide relief.

Do you have frequent headaches or migranes?

There are three types of headaches: True Medical, Chiropractic, and Dental.

Most migranes are dental in nature. Many people seek help from physicians from headaches when a simple bite-adjustment (equilibration) will eliminate the common migrane headache. Your jaw is on two hinges which allows it to open and close. If you were to look at a door with two hinges but put ten latches on the door, if you were to close the door, and all ten latches went click at the same time, then the latches and the hinges are aligned.

This relates to your jaw by when you use your two hinges to close, your back teeth have mountain tops and valleys which fit together. We call these cusp tips and fossa. If your mountains and valleys are not properly aligned, you close on a slope. When you close on a slope this causes your jaw to slightly shift.

Your body's response is to unknowingly grind and clench your teeth. This sets off a cascade of physical symptoms usually initiating with the common tension headache in the temple area and in the top of the head. This can cause severe migranes with flashes in your vision and pain to the other areas of the head and neck. At our office we have experienced an approximate 80% resolve of your common migrane headache by simple bite-adjustment.

Our philosophy is to treat out of a splint/nightguard, not into one. If your TMJ problems involve joint degredation or mal-positioning due to mal-occlusion then splint/nightguard therapy may be necessary. Many people have clicking or popping in their joints. This clicking or popping is the disk popping in or out of position. If you have ever had your jaw locked open or locked closed this is most likely due to the disk being out of position. A simple mandibular repositioning can put your jaw back in place.

If your jaw is locked open your symptoms are as follows: when you close your teeth it feels like on one side they don't quite touch as they used to, and often is painful upon hard chewing. In contrary if your jaw is locked closed when you open wide you will feel one side get extremely tight, and you will not be able to open all the way. If these are your symptoms, the first home remedy is to relax the muscles with heat or muscle relaxants and hope it goes back in. If it doesn't go back in you should see myself or another dentist as soon as possible.

Our office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 5:00.

Our phone number is (805) 925-8767.