What is TMJ Disorder?
The TMJ is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull's temporal bones (located just below your temple and in front of your ear). You use this hinge joint each time you move your jaw to breathe, eat or talk.
Temporomandibular joint disorders happen when there is a problem with the facial muscles and the jaw. You may start to feel pain in the area and the joint can eventually become immobile if the disorder is severe enough.
We'll list the three main types of TMJ disorders in this post:
Types of TMJ Disorder
Known as myofascial pain, this pain involves pain or discomfort in all the muscles that control your jaw's function. You might feel pain in your shoulders, neck and jaw muscles.
Joint Derangement Disorders
There's a small, soft disc placed between the condyle and the temporal bone that makes the opening and closing of the jaw smooth and easy. The disc also absorbs shocks to the jaw joint during its movements.
With joint derangement disorders, the inner workings of the jaw are unbalanced or disrupted due to a damaged bone or dislocation of a disc. When the disc is displaced, this leads to internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. At the moment, there is no surgical procedure to treat this problem.
Joint Degenerative Disorders
The disorder more commonly referred to as osteoarthritis involves the round ends of the two bones in a joint, which are held together by cartilage. This allows the bones to easily glide over each other and also absorbs shock during movement.
When cartilage wears away or breaks away, a joint degenerative disorder occurs. A patient will experience pain and swelling, and won't be able to move the jaw.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
No matter which type of TMJ Disorder you have, you’ll likely feel pain in your face, jaw, and around your ears when you open your mouth to talk or eat.
Other symptoms can include:
- Clicking, popping, or grinding sounds when you open your jaw
- Additional pain that moves down into your neck and shoulders
- Headaches, pain in your temples or dizziness
- Facial bruising or swelling
- Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
When to see a dentist
If home remedies such as gently massaging your jaw and neck muscles, avoiding stress, chewing gum, and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are not effective, you should see your dentist.
The dentist will review your dental history, complete a thorough exam of your jaw and bite, and take X-rays to study before officially diagnosing you with TMJ Disorder and recommending treatment, which could include:
- Dental splints
- TMJ Therapy
- Oral Surgery (for severe cases)
- Physical Therapy
- Prescription medications
With a dentist’s help, your TMJ Disorder can often be managed with a combination of dental care and home remedies.