Advancements in dentistry over the past several years have given individuals enduring dental problems new opportunities to achieve a healthy and beautiful smile. Dr Petra van der Merwe, well-known for correcting misaligned teeth with braces, appliances or Invisalign, can also treat a common and troublesome dental issue called Temporal Mandibular Joint disorder, or TMJ.

TMJ is a dysfunction of the jaw joints, which produces jaw and bite alignment defects in individuals suffering from this dental disorder. The mandibular bone [the lower jaw] is designed to slide and turn to provide for a range of motion. TMJ is generally caused by grinding the teeth, clenching the jaw, highly stressful lifestyles, as well as the wearing down of the jaw bone and joint over time. Other factors are hypermobile ligaments, arthritic conditions and cranial sacral distortions.

Some physical symptoms of TMJ involve severe jaw pain and discomfort, headaches, facial pain, the clicking of the jaw at the joints, reduced jaw mobility, extremely worn teeth, the jaw locking, earaches, and ringing in the ears. If left untreated, nerve pain and damage caused by the misalignment of the jawbone may become permanent. While most TMJ symptoms are not severe, specific issues can create serious health problems such as the inability to chew food correctly, which could lead to a nutritional deficiency.

TMJ may also create challenges with sleeping, due to the severity of the pain in the jaw. Most patients claim that the symptoms seem to worsen at night, mainly due to the inability of the muscles and joints to relax. Misalignment of the jawbone may also complicate other sleep issues such as sleep apnea.

Thankfully, Dr Petra van der Merwe has several treatment options for TMJ available. The treatment will depend upon many unique factors such as the overall well-being of the patient, their medical history, their tolerance for medications and mouth appliances, and the intensity of the disorder. Some of the more traditional treatments of TMJ include relaxing the joints of the jaw, stress management methods to reduce clenching of the jaw, pain medication, exercises, hot and cold compresses, and orthopaedic appliances such as mouth guards to lessen the effects of grinding the teeth. Once the pain is relieved, orthodontic treatment can follow to help with long-term relief and function.