Teeth Grinding, TMJ Issues, and Night Guard

Some of us know a "joint" to be like a "ball-in-a-socket" where there is a nook where the ball shaped object sits in and can roll around in it. 

The TMJ is also a joint and is a part of our head and neck. It is made up mainly of the upper jaw, lower jaw, articular discs (like cartilage), and joint fluid. It is like our knee joint and shoulder joint, but is able to do a different movement called "translation" during wide opening. This is when the lower jaw portion of the joint (the ball) slides out of the upper jaw portion of the join (the socket). Obviously, a dislocated knee or shoulder is not good. But the lower jaw slipping out of and back into the joint space is just a regular occurrence to the TMJ when you open your mouth wide and close. If you place your fingers directly in front of your ear slightly above our earlobe area, and open wide, then close, you can feel this happening .

One thing that can happen, though, is the jaw getting stuck and unable to sink back into the joint space after opening wide. If you have ever experienced this, this could mean you have TMD - TemporoMandibular Dysfunction - and it is important to seek a Dentist for help. Another symptom to look out for is any clicking/popping/or grinding noises or feeling in that area. This could mean degeneration of the discs/cartilage due a grinding or clenching habit of the teeth, or just an imbalance in the way your teeth come together. You should seek professional help with the Dentist to consult further about the problem. 

Dr. Hyun S. Bang, D.D.S. Doctor of Dental Surgery Loma Linda University 2008

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