Effective TMJ syndrome treatment should involve an interdisciplinary approach, combining various approaches. This may sound curious to someone like you who's exploring their options for managing temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Certainly, you're grinding your teeth overnight, and probably need dental attention. Additionally, the physical motion of the grinding is causing undue stress and discomfort to your temporomandibular joint, and this no doubt requires attention. But isn't the issue exclusively medical?
Mindfulness and Psychosocial Treatments
The irregular clenching of your jaw muscles and tendons and the subsequent grinding of your teeth has a cause. However, pinpointing a precise cause for TMJ is problematic. The condition is often attributed to stress and your subsequent mood. As such, there are various mindfulness and psychosocial therapies that may be beneficial. Some patients affected by the disorder have reported relief with hypnotherapy, or even an alleviation of symptoms with yoga. Conventional therapy to identify the root cause of your stress may also be beneficial.
Restorative Dental Treatment
A more direct approach to alleviate your discomfort is an essential component of your TMJ syndrome treatment. This is why your dentist is invaluable. You may require restorative treatment, as grinding may have eroded protective dental enamel from the biting surfaces of your teeth. This makes teeth far more sensitive to external stimuli, and missing instances of protective enamel can lead to the accelerated decay of your teeth. Affected teeth can be rebuilt using tooth-colored resin, or partial dental crowns (known as inlays and onlays) may be more appropriate. Teeth that have only experienced minimal degradation will benefit from a sealant—a transparent resin coating on their biting surfaces that protects them from further erosion.
Nocturnal Dental Protection
Protecting and restoring already affected teeth is one part of the dental component of your TMJ management. Your dentist can also prevent further damage caused by nocturnal grinding. They will take the specifications of your upper or lower dental arch and manufacture a customized occlusal splint. This slots over your upper or lower teeth, depending on the circumstances. Splints are made of a comfortable, soft thermoplastic, and look much like clear aligners that straighten teeth. A splint prevents physical contact between upper and lower teeth, so any nocturnal grinding has no effect on the biting surfaces of your teeth.
Your TMJ treatment should involve an interdisciplinary approach, so don't be concerned if your physician recommends an activity often associated with mindfulness, like meditation. However, the physical impacts of tooth damage must also be treated, and much of your TMJ treatment will be capably handled by your dentist.