Gnathology - Complaints with the temporomandibular joint?

How do dysfunctions become noticeable?

Typical signs of a dysfunction caused by teeth can be:

  • Muscle pain (face, neck, shoulder)
  • Chronic tension
  • Frequent headaches
  • Cracking and pain in the jaw joints
  • Restricted mobility of the lower jaw
  • Ringing in the ears/tinnitus

The teeth's very sensitive sense of touch is a factor that controls the entire musculature of the jaw, neck, face and neck via chewing. Even the smallest changes in this complex interaction of teeth, muscles and joints can trigger functional disorders.

If complaints occur in the area of the temporomandibular joint, the causes must be clarified. Patients are often under professional and/or private stress. Stress in the long term often leads to grinding and/or pressing. However, there are also other causes and factors that can play a role in complaints in the temporomandibular joint. Especially when the bite position (chewing plane) is not correct (too high, too low, uneven, …). This is called craniomandibular dysfunction (CMD).

If the pain is very severe, additional medication such as painkillers (analgesics), anti-inflammatories (anti-inflammatories) and muscle relaxants (muscle relaxants) can be prescribed in the early stages. However, medication should never be a permanent solution.

Bildquelle: © Initiative proDente e.V.

If the complaints in the temporomandibular joint do not subside, then physiotherapeutic measures can be very useful. Physiotherapy is particularly advisable if you have severe tension and / or discomfort in the neck and shoulder area. A consequence of complaints in this area is often the transfer / transmission of the tension to the jaw joint or chewing muscles. You will be perfectly looked after if your physiotherapist has the appropriate CMD additional qualification.

You can help yourself with a soothing massage and loosening exercises for the temporomandibular joint. Circular, punctual massage in the temple and forehead area also help and thus relieve the discomfort in a completely natural way. Any kind of relaxation exercises, such as autogenic training, yoga, relaxation teas, … are also often very helpful or can have a supporting effect.

How we can treat your temporomandibular joint disorders

Stress kann zu Zähneknirschen bzw. Zähnepressen führen. Fachleute sprechen von Bruxismus. © Initiative proDente e.V.

Depending on the cause, we can treat such temporomandibular joint disorders with different splints. If, for example, the cause is “only” temporary stress, we will advise you to do relaxation exercises. Just thinking about why you are so tense at the moment actually helps in many cases.

If such measures are not enough, a so-called relief splint will be made. This ensures a neutral – i.e. relaxed – position of the lower jaw and absorbs the pressure (keyword: “clenching your teeth”).

If you also grind or clench your teeth (e.g. at night), a so-called grinding splint is used. Grinding or clenching can sometimes only be caused by stress, but it is almost always due to small or large errors in the occlusion – i.e. the bite or fit together – between the upper and lower teeth.

A grinding splint with a surface that is individually adapted to the opposing jaw prevents the abrasion of the teeth and relieves the jaw joint on the one hand, and eliminates the causal occlusion problems on the other.

If the splint is successful, the occlusal disorders can then be eliminated. These can have various causes, such as former orthodontic treatment, new and not optimally fitted fillings, crowns or bridges, uncompensated tooth loss, accidents, one-sided loads, e.g. due to hip problems, and so on….

Often an interdisciplinary cooperation of dentist (including orthodontist and oral surgeon), physiotherapist and orthopaedist is necessary to correct pronounced temporomandibular joint disorders.

Frequently asked questions

Bite splints - What purpose do they serve?

Depending on the main purpose of the bite splint, a distinction is made between

  • Relaxation splints (relaxation splints) for relaxing the chewing muscles,

  • Positioning splints to relieve the jaw joints and

  • Parafunctional splints (grinding splints) to prevent malfunctions such as grinding and clenching.

Bite splints are individually made of plastic by the dental technician in the laboratory after both jaws have been imprinted. The splint – which can be easily inserted and removed by the patient – is usually worn in the upper jaw. It is almost always sufficient to wear the splint at night.

The bite block splint is adjusted to the chewing plane during the first insertion. At regular intervals, the bite splint should be checked by the dentist and corrected if necessary.

What support measures can I do myself?

Physiotherapeutic measures are often recommended to support the gnathological treatment. The physiotherapist knows special massages and applications to loosen the chewing muscles.

You yourself can support the treatment by self-massaging the chewing and temple muscles. The massages relax the chewing muscles and improve blood circulation. If necessary, we can show you certain movement exercises for the lower jaw. This normalises the movement sequences and thus reduces the incorrect loading of the temporomandibular joint.

And as a last tip! Since psychological tension and stress can trigger complaints in the temporomandibular joint, exercises that serve general relaxation (e.g. autogenic training, yoga,…) can be very helpful.

How do I clean the bite block splint?

ONLY use cold, clear water to clean the splint.

Before you put the splint on your teeth to relieve the jaw joint at night, your teeth should be thoroughly cleaned. This also prevents plaque from sticking to the plastic of the splint. In the morning, simply clean the splint under cold running water. If necessary, you can also use a toothbrush and some toothpaste or hand soap for cleaning.

Hot water will warp the splint!

A bite splint is made of plastic. Accordingly, this splint may only be rinsed with cold to lukewarm water. Therefore, cleaning in a dishwasher is not possible. Likewise, pouring boiling water over the splint destroys it irretrievably and the splint would have to be made again.

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