What is TMJ Disorder?
The TMJ is the joint that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull (located just below your temple and in front of your ear). You use this hinge joint every time you move your jaw to breathe, talk, or eat.
Temporomandibular joint disorders occur when there is a problem with the facial muscles and the jaw. You might start to feel pain in the area and the joint can eventually become immobile if the disorder is severe enough.
There are three main types of TMJ disorders:
Types of TMJ Disorder
This pain is known as myofascial pain and involves discomfort or pain in all the muscles that control your jaw’s function. You may feel pain in your shoulders, neck, and jaw muscles.
Joint Derangement Disorders
To make the opening and closing of the jaw easy and smooth, there is a small, soft disc placed between the condyle and the temporal bone. This disc also absorbs shocks to the jaw joint during its movements.
With joint derangement disorders, the inner workings of the jaw are unbalanced or disrupted due to a damaged bone or dislocation of a disc. The displacement of the disc leads to internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. For the moment, no surgery can treat this problem.
Joint Degenerative Disorders
This disorder is more commonly known as osteoarthritis. The round ends of the two bones in a joint are held together by cartilage. This allows the bones to glide easily over each other. It also absorbs shocks during movements.
A joint degenerative disorder occurs when cartilage wears away or breaks away. The patient will experience pain, swelling and won’t be able to move the jaw.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
No matter which type of TMJ Disorder you have, you’ll likely feel pain in your face, jaw, and around your ears when you open your mouth to talk or eat.
Other symptoms can include:
- Clicking, popping, or grinding sounds when you open your jaw
- Additional pain that moves down into your neck and shoulders
- Headaches, pain in your temples or dizziness
- Facial bruising or swelling
- Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
When is it time to see a dentist?
If home remedies such as gently massaging your jaw and neck muscles, avoiding stress, chewing gum, and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are not effective, you should see your dentist.
The dentist will review your dental history, complete a thorough exam of your jaw and bite, and take X-rays to study before officially diagnosing you with TMJ Disorder and recommending treatment, which could include:
- Dental splints
- TMJ Therapy
- Oral Surgery (for severe cases)
- Physical Therapy
- Prescription medications
With your dentist’s help, your TMJ Disorder can often be managed with a combination of dental care and home remedies.