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Posted on 07-28-2016

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ, TMD) are conditions that affect the jaw joint and muscle, often causing pain and dysfunction. The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone on the side of the skull, in front of the ear. Normal joints and muscles enable the jaw to move smoothly up, down, and from side to side. The joint also contains a soft disc that rests between the temporal bone at each side of the skull and the condyle, or rounded end of the lower jaw. This enables the jaw to function properly. As it is both a hinge and sliding joint, this joint is among the most complicated.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) estimates that over ten million Americans suffer from TMJ, with women more likely to acquire the condition. Whereas many people who suffer jaw joint or muscle pain or discomfort do so only occasionally, some individuals may develop long-term and serious symptoms.

TMJ Disorders

There are three primary types of TMJ disorders that can manifest and some people may have more than one of these conditions simultaneously:

  • Myofascial pain
  • Internal joint dysfunction such as dislocation or a displaced disc
  • Arthritis

Causes

The etiology of TMJ disorders is largely unknown; however, due to the condition affecting females more than males, researchers are exploring the possibility that female hormones play a role.

Symptoms

TMJ disorders can manifest themselves in several ways:

  • Jaw joint or muscle pain
  • Radiating pain in the face and neck
  • Jaw muscle stiffness
  • Limited jaw movement
  • Jaw locking
  • Painful noises such as popping, clicking, or grinding when opening and closing the mouth
  • Changes in bite

Treatment

Most experts stress that only the most conservative and reversible interventions be used so as to not permanently change the structure or functionality of this important joint. These treatments include:

  • Self-care such as eating softer foods, applying ice, limiting jaw movement, stress reduction, and gentle jaw relaxing exercises
  • Pain medications, either over-the-counter or prescription, if necessary
  • Oral appliances such as bite guards or stabilization splints
  • Botox injections which have proven effective in treating TMJ disorder pain

Other treatments that are largely irreversible with little proof of their effectiveness include orthodontics to correct the bite and surgery, such as jaw joint replacement.

For more information or to schedule an appointment to have your jaw pain evaluated, please contact us.

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