What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects the jaw bone to the temporal bones in the skull. This joint allows the jaw to move up, down, left, and right enabling the ability to chew, talk, and yawn. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) can occur when there are problems associated with the muscles of the face and jaw.
It should be noted that the common public refers generally refers to TMD as TMJ even though the actual disorder is TMD. For this article we will be referring to TMD as the actual disorder that you would be coming to our dentist to fix and TMJ as the actual body part referenced above.
The cause of temporomandibular joint is not clearly defined by one source. Symptoms that are associated with the development of TMD include:
- Grinding or clenching teeth
- Movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the joint
- Arthritis in the joint
- Stress that causes tightening of the facial and jaw muscles as well as teeth clenching
- Pain or injury to the neck, face, or jaw
The above-referenced list is composed of symptoms that may cause TMD to occur. The following list includes symptoms that signal the presence of TMD:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw
- Locking of the jaw making it difficult to open
- Pain or tenderness in either of the temporomandibular joints
- Difficulty chewing
- Aching in and around the ear
- Facial pain headaches
- Pressure in the TMJ area
- Clicking or popping noises during jaw movement
The symptoms listed above can all indicate the presence of TMJ. However, most of the symptoms may be associated with other problems so it can be difficult to confidently diagnose the disorder. If several of these symptoms are present and persistent please get an appointment with our dentist or see a doctor for a full evaluation of the head and neck to determine potential causes and to receive treatment.
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There are various treatment options sought out to treat the symptoms associated with TMJ disorder include medication, home remedies, splints, therapy, surgery, and other alternatives. Each has different advantages and disadvantages. We suggest you come in for an appointment to discuss your options further if you are noticing symptoms described above.
Splints for TMD
Splints may be recommended as treatment by a dental professional. Also called a stabilization splint or mouth guard, these splints may be made of resin and fit over teeth to provide support to the jaw and may also help to alleviate pressure and strain when biting. There are also mandibular repositioning splints that are used to move the jaw forward or back into a more beneficial position for the facial structure.
TMJ Disorder Therapy
Therapy that is aimed at alleviating the discomfort of TMD comes in the forms of physical therapy, splint treatment, and education. All of these therapeutic channels are designed to redirect the placement or use of the jaw, muscles, and joints in a way that promotes healthier use. This combination can be outlined by your dentist so please set up an appointment to learn more.
Surgeries to fix TMD
Surgeries are viewed as last resort options if all other options have been unsuccessful. Procedures for TMD include injections, arthroscopy, open-joint surgery, and arthrocentesis. If you believe you may be a candidate for such procedures consult with both your doctor and dentist to see if there are other treatment options that should be attempted before surgery.