TMJ & Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
The TMJ is the joint connecting the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear) to your jaw. No matter what you do you are using this joint. whether it is to talk, eat or even breathe,
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) happen when there is an issue with your jaw and facial muscles. You begin to experience pain in the area and if the disorder progresses to a severe state, the joint may eventually be unable to move.
The Different Types of TMD Affecting Your TMJ
There are 3 main types of TMD that affect the TMJ. These are:
Joint Degenerative Disorders
One of the most commonly known types of TMJ is osteoarthritis. This joint degenerative disorder happens when cartilage holding the round ends of the two bones in your jaw together breaks or wears away.
Cartilage absorbs shocks during movement and allows your bones to glide easily over each other. If the cartilage in your joint wears away it can prevent proper movement in that area.
Muscle Disorders or Myofascial Pain
Also referred to as myofascial pain, muscle disorders involve pain and discomfort in all the muscles controlling the function of your jaw. You may also experience pain in your jaw muscles, shoulders and neck.
The opening and closing of your jaw can be done thanks to a small disc that sits between the temporal bone and the condyle. This disc is also important as it absorbs shocks to the jaw joint that happen during movement.
When an individual has a joint derangement disorder, the inner workings of the jaw are disrupted or unbalanced due to a dislocated disc or damaged bone.
This displaced disc causes internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. At this time there have not been any surgical successes for this issue.
The Common Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
With every type of TMJ Disorder, you’ll likely experience pain in your jaw and face. The area around your ears may hurt, and you’ll feel an ache when you open your mouth to eat or talk.
Other symptoms may include:
- Facial bruising or swelling
- Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
- Headaches, dizziness or pain in your temples
- Grinding, clicking or popping sounds when you open your jaw
- Additional pain in your neck and/or shoulders
How a Dentist Can Help Treat TMD
If at-home remedies such as avoiding stress, chewing gum, gently massaging your neck and jaw muscles, and trying over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have not proven effective, you should make a dental appointment.
Your dentist will review your dental history, perform a thorough examination of your bite and jaw, and take x-rays to assess before providing an official diagnosis of TMJ Disorder. The treatment he or she recommends may include:
- TMJ therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Dental Appliances
- Oral Surgery
- Dental Splints
- Prescription Medications
Using a combination of dental care and home therapies, your dentist may be able to help you manage the pain associated with TMJ disorders.