What is the TMJ?
The TMJ or temporomandibular joint is what connects the temporal bones, in front of your ears, to your jaw. This joint helps us do all of the standard things we use our jaw for, like talking and breathing.
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) happen when there is an issue with your jaw and facial muscles. This condition may begin with just pain that gets worse over time but can reach the point of restricting your jaw movement entirely.
What are the different types of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders?
Did you know that there are 3 main types of TMJ disorder and that you might actually recognize some of them?
Osteoarthritis / Joint Degenerative Disorders
Most commonly known as osteoarthritis, this joint degenerative disorder occurs when the joints wear down and are no longer able to hold the bones as they should.
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 (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 are likely to experience pain from this condition in areas like your neck and back.
Joint Derangement Disorders or Displacement
A soft, small disc located between the temporal bone and the condyle makes the opening and closing of the jaw smooth and easy. This small point not only makes movement smooth but also helps to diminish the shock that you would otherwise feel when opening and closing your mouth.
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. If you end up experiencing this condition then there are unfortunately no surgical options at this time.
What symptoms might be experienced with TMJ disorders?
No matter what type of TMJ disorder you experience you will generally feel some type of pain in your jaw and neck. The area around your ears may hurt, and you’ll feel an ache when you open your mouth to eat or talk.
Some of the other common symptoms of TMJ 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
What are the indicators that you may need to seek professional dental care?
If at-home remedies such as avoiding stress, chewing gum, gently massaging your neck and jaw muscles, or 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
- Oral Surgery
- Dental splints
- Prescription medications
Your dentist can help you manage your TMJ Disorder with a combination of home remedies and attentive dental care.