What is TMJ Disorder?
The TMJ is the joint that links the temporal bones of your skull (found beneath your temple, in front of your ear) to your jaw. This hinge enables various actions such as jaw movement, eating, talking, and even breathing.
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) occur when there are problems with your jaw and facial muscles. This leads to pain in the area, and in severe cases, the joint may become immobile.
Types of TMJ Disorder
There are three main types of TMJ disorders.:
Joint Degenerative Disorders
Osteoarthritis, also called joint degenerative disorder, occurs when the cartilage that connects the ends of the two bones in your jaw wears away or breaks. Cartilage acts as a shock absorber and enables smooth movement of your bones. When the cartilage deteriorates, it causes pain, swelling, and restricts jaw movement.
Muscle disorders, also known as myofascial pain, cause discomfort and pain in the muscles that control your jaw's function. You might also feel pain in your jaw muscles, shoulders, and neck.
Joint Derangement Disorders
A small, soft disc between the temporal bone and the condyle helps smooth jaw movement and absorbs shocks.
When someone has a joint derangement disorder, the jaw's internal workings are disrupted or unbalanced due to a dislocated disc or damaged bone.
This displacement of the disc causes problems in the temporomandibular joint, but unfortunately, there is currently no surgical solution for this issue.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
TMJ Disorders can cause jaw and facial pain, including discomfort around the ears. You may also feel an ache when you eat or speak.
Additional symptoms can 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
When You Should See a Dentist for TMJ Treatment
If you've tried home remedies like reducing stress, chewing gum, massaging your neck and jaw muscles, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers without success, it's time to schedule a dental appointment.
During your visit, the dentist will look at your dental history, carefully examine your bite and jaw, and take x-rays to evaluate your condition before officially diagnosing TMJ Disorder. The recommended treatment 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.