What is TMJ Disorder?
The TMJ is the joint that connects 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 move your jaw to eat, talk, and even breathe.
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) occur when there is a problem with your jaw and facial muscles. You begin to feel pain in the area, and if the disorder worsens, the joint may become immobile.
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.
Your bones can move smoothly over one another thanks to the cartilage that cushions impacts during movement. You may not be able to move your jaw as the cartilage erodes, which will cause pain, swelling, and discomfort.
Muscle disorders, also known as myofascial pain, cause pain and discomfort in all of the muscles that control your jaw's function. Your jaw muscles, shoulders, and neck may also hurt.
Joint Derangement Disorders
The condyle and temporal bone are connected by a soft, small disc that makes the jaw movement easy and fluid. This disc is also crucial because it cushions shocks to the jaw joint when the jaw 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
With every type of TMJ Disorder, you’ll likely experience pain in your jaw and face. The area around your ears may hurt, and you’ll feel an ache when you open your mouth to eat or talk.
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
If at-home remedies like stress reduction, chewing gum, gently massaging your neck and jaw muscles, and trying over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) haven't worked, you should schedule a dental appointment.
Before providing an official diagnosis of TMJ Disorder, your dentist will review your dental history, perform a thorough examination of your bite and jaw, and take x-rays. He or she may recommend the following treatments:
- 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.