The temporomandibular joint is the hinge-like connection of your jaw and the temporal bones of the face, which are located in front of your ears. This joint allows you to open and close your mouth and is directly responsible for talking, chewing and yawning.
What is TMJ disorder?
TMJ disorder is any problem concerned with the jaw and muscle structures which influence this joint. Though there is no definitive cause of this disorder, there are a number of possible causes. The disorder is often abbreviated to TMD, while the abbreviation TMJ refers to the joint itself
Possible Cause of TMJ Disorder
Injury to the jaw
Sometimes injuries sustained to your jaw, joint or muscles in the head and neck can lead to TMJ disorder. This includes injuries such as a heavy blow to the jaw or whiplash.
Teeth grinding and clenching
Grinding and clenching your teeth puts a lot of stress on the joint, which can lead to TMD.
Bone joints work like a ball and socket, with a padding of soft cushion and disks to allow movement. If those discs or cushioning are misaligned, it can lead to TMD.
Arthritis is the breakdown of joints and bones in the body and causes stiffness and pain.
As stress tightens the muscles of your face and triggers tooth grinding, it can cause disorders of the TMJ.
The tell-tale sign of TMD is a constant and often severe pain in the area of the joint. However, there are other distinguishing symptoms, such as:
- Pain in the face, jaw, neck, shoulder, around the ear and when you open your mouth or yawn.
- If your jaw locks or gets stuck whilst opening or closing.
- Swelling of the face
- Clicking and popping noises coming from the jaw
- Trouble chewing
- Toothaches, headaches, neck pain, earaches, tinnitus and dizziness
Due to the varied nature of TMD, treatment is prescribed patient by patient. The more we know about the individual cases, the greater understanding we can have of how best to treat your TMD. If we find stress to be the most likely cause, we may suggest some strategies that will allow you to relax and ease the symptoms of TMD. In other cases you may require an oral splint. Surgery will only be recommended in some situations.
Oral splints look a little like a mouthguard and are worn at while you sleep. They can prevent teeth grinding and correct jaw placement at night. Oral splints are known to alleviate symptoms of TMD in some circumstances.
When treating TMD, it is of utmost importance that your situation is considered by a professional to discern what may be triggering your symptoms and how best to deal with them. It is difficult to determine the best treatment option without this consultation.