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TMJ: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

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Your temporomandibular joint, also called your TMJ, is one of your body's most complicated joints. Here, our St. Thomas dentists explain the three main kinds of disorders affecting the TMJ (called TMD), their symptoms and your treatment options. 

What is TMJ Disorder?

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. You use this hinge to do everything from moving your jaw to eating, talking – even breathing.

TMD, or temporomandibular joint disorders, happen when there is a health issue affecting your facial muscles and jaw. You start experiencing pain the are and if the disorder progressed far enough, the joint may even become unable to move at all.

Types of TMJ Disorder

There are actually three main types of TMJ disorders:

Joint Degenerative Disorders

This is most commonly known as osteoarthritis and is a generative disorder that occurs when the cartilage holding the round ends of the bones in your jaw begins to break down or wear away.

Cartilage absorbs shocks during movement, and allows your bones to glide easily over each other. When the cartilage erodes, pain and swelling will occur, and you may not be able to move your jaw.

Muscle Disorders

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.

Joint Derangement Disorders

There is a small, soft disc found between the temporal bone and the condyle that help to make the opening and closing of your jaw easy and smooth. This disc is critical to absorbing shocks to your jaw joints that occur 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. Currently, there is no surgical solution to this problem.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

With all these types of TMD, you will likely experience some pain in your jaw and your face. The areas around your ears may hurt and you will feel and ache when you open your mouth to speak or eat. 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Headaches, dizziness or pain in your temples
  • Facial bruising or swelling
  • Additional pain in your neck and/or shoulders
  • Grinding, clicking or popping sounds when you open your jaw
  • Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw

When You Should See a Dentist for TMJ Treatment

If common at-home remedies like chewing gum, avoiding stress and gently massaging your neck and jaw muscles don't work, you should make an appointment with your dentist to examine the extent of your TMJ disrder.

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
  • Oral Surgery
  • Dental splints
  • Physical Therapy
  • Prescription medications

Your dentist can help you manage your TMJ Disorder with a combination of home remedies and attentive dental care.

Are your experiencing pain in your jaw, headaches, or dizziness? Our dentists may be able to develop a customized treatment plan to help. Book an appointment with Fairview Dentistry today.


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