Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders
The temporomandibular joint is what connects the mandible, or lower jaw, with the temporal bone, which is the bone on the side of your head. If you open your mouth and put your finger right in front of your ears, you will be able to feel them. The sliding and hinge combined motions are what allows us to chew, talk, yawn, whistle and many other things that we do with our mouths and jaws. It makes the joint among the most complex part of the entire body.
TMJ, or Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, are a set of conditions that cause dysfunction and pain in the jaw joint as well as the muscles controlling jaw movement. For a majority of individuals who experience pain within the jaw joint area or muscle, it isn’t a serious problem.
Usually, any discomfort arising from those conditions is temporary and occasional and may occur in cycles. Eventually, the pain will go away with no or little treatment. However, some people develop long-term significant symptoms. TMJ symptoms may also arise due to Bruxism, which is excessive grinding or clenching of the teeth.
TMJ Disorder Symptoms
- Tenderness or pain in the neck, jaw or face. Frequently the pain radiates, which means it starts at one point and appears to move outward.
- Stiffness in the jaw muscles, either on both or one side.
- Locking of the jaw, or difficulties with closing or opening the jaw either partially or fully.
- Painful popping or clicking in the jaw, or grinding sensation inside of the jaw.
- Occurs along with bruxism as well as the factors contributing to teeth clenching or grinding.
- Malocclusion, or changing the way the lower and upper jaws align with one another.
TMJ Disorder Treatment
There are various options for relieving and treating TMJ symptoms. For more serious cases, your dentist might refer you to either your regular doctor or a specialist for ruling out any other possible causes. A couple of cosmetic treatment option examples Dr. Bassiri at Fusion Dental Care might recommend include the following:
- Self-care practices that can be done at home – which includes applying ice packs or heat, eating soft foods while in discomfort, practicing relaxation techniques and avoiding over-using the jaw.
- Prescription or over the counter medications, which include muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatories for relieving symptoms and pain.
- Bite guard (which is a custom fitted dental appliance) for stabilizing the jaw.
Other permanent treatments like implants and surgery might be considered if necessary, and after all of the other conservative and self-care treatment options are fully exhausted. TMJ disorders a vast majority of the time are cyclical, and they are even predictable at times. Many people have the ability to sense when their symptoms might appear to be worsening and can apply various self-care methods proactively.