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.
TMDs (temporomandibular joint disorders) are caused by problems with the jaw and facial muscles. You start to feel pain there, and if the condition worsens, the joint might eventually stop moving altogether.
Types of TMJ Disorder
There are actually three main types of TMJ disorders:
Joint Degenerative Disorders
Most commonly known as osteoarthritis, this joint degenerative disorder happens when cartilage holding the round ends of the two bones in your jaw together breaks or wears away.
During movement, cartilage absorbs shocks and enables easy bone-to-bone contact. You may not be able to move your jaw as the cartilage deteriorates, and you will experience pain and swelling.
Muscle disorders, also known as myofascial pain, cause aches and discomfort in all of the muscles that move your jaw. You might also feel pain in your neck, shoulders, and jaw muscles.
Joint Derangement Disorders
A soft, small disc connects the condyle and temporal bone, allowing for easy and fluid jaw movement. This disc is also important because it absorbs shocks to the jaw joint when it moves.
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
You will most likely experience pain in your jaw and face if you have any type of TMJ disorder. You might experience pain in the area around your ears, and opening your mouth to eat or speak will make you feel achy.
Other symptoms 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
When You Should See a Dentist for TMJ Treatment
You should schedule a dental appointment if at-home remedies like avoiding stress, chewing gum, gently massaging your neck and jaw muscles, and trying over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have not worked.
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.