Temporalmandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ Disorder) occurs as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving the jaw. At R.A. Campbell Dentistry, we help Bowmanville patients correct these issues.
What is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull, which is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head. The joints are flexible, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side and enabling you to talk, chew and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control the position and movement of the jaw.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
The cause of TMJ disorder is not clear, but dentists believe that symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself. Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint or muscles of the head and neck – such as from a heavy blow or whiplash – can cause TMJ. Other possible causes include:
- grinding or clenching the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the joint
- dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket
- presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the joint
- stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth
What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
People with TMJ disorder can experience severe pain and discomfort that can be temporary or last for many years. More women than men experience TMJ disorder and TMJ issues are seen most commonly in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Common symptoms of TMJ include:
- pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
- limited ability to open the mouth very wide
- jaws that get "stuck" or "lock" in the open or closed-mouth position
- clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when chewing or opening or closing the mouth (which may or may not be accompanied by pain)
- a tired feeling in the face
- difficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite – as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
- swelling on the side of the face
- may occur on one or both sides of the face
Other common symptoms of TMJ include toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, ear aches, hearing problems, upper shoulder pain, and ringing in the ears (tinnitis).
How Is TMJ Disorder Diagnosed?
Many other conditions can cause similar TMJ symptoms, including a toothache, sinus problems, arthritis, or gum disease. Your dentist will conduct a careful patient history and physical examination to determine the exact cause of your symptoms.
- examine your temporomandibular joints for pain or tenderness;
- listen for clicking, popping, or grating sounds during jaw movement;
- look for limited motion or locking of the jaw while opening or closing the mouth; and
- examine bite and facial muscle function.
In some cases, we may decide to send you to an oral surgeon (also called an oral and maxillofacial surgeon) for further care and treatment.
Treatments for TMJ Disorder
Some basic, conservative treatments for TMJ include:
- apply moist heat or cold packs
- eat soft foods
- take medications
- low-level laser therapy
- wear a splint or night guard
- undergo corrective dental treatments
- avoid extreme jaw movements
- don't rest your chin on your hand or hold the telephone between your shoulder and ear (practice good posture to reduce neck and facial pain)
- keep your teeth slightly apart as often as you can to relieve pressure on the jaw
- learning relaxation techniques to help control muscle tension in the jaw
- BOTOX® injections