TMJ Disorders 101: An Introduction
Your jaw is the only moving bone connected to your skull. The joint that connects the jaw to your skull is called the temporomandibular (TMJ) joint. As you can imagine, the TMJ works hard—it slides and moves when you speak and chew. Therefore, a TMJ disorder, or TMJ syndrome, can be significantly challenging in your day-to-day life.
TMJ treatment is available, however, and this type of treatment is often offered by dentists. Below is a formal introduction to TMJ disorders, the potential causes behind the condition, and what you can expect during TMJ treatment.
What is a TMJ disorder?
A TMJ disorder is a disorder characterized by pain or a limited range of motion that affects the temporomandibular joints. These disorders often come with a list of uncomfortable symptoms for the patient, such as:
- Tenderness in the jaws
- Pain around the temporomandibular joints
- Problems when chewing or speaking
- Clicking and popping in one or both TMJs
- The jaw getting "locked" in a certain position
- Inability to close or open the jaw fully
What causes TMJ?
A TMJ disorder does not always have an obvious cause. In most cases, a series of different causative factors are suspected. For example, a combination of genetics and a tendency to ground your teeth may make you more likely to experience a TMJ disorder. In rare cases, TMJ disorders are caused by injuries that have caused the joint or joints to come out of their proper alignments.
What can a dentist do for TMJ?
Dentists are the typical treatment providers for people who have a TMJ disorder. First, the dentist will do a thorough evaluation of the joints by performing an x-ray, CT scan, or even an MRI. This gives the dentist a closer look at the structures within the joint and what is likely causing the problem. After making an accurate diagnosis, the dentist may recommend:
- Oral medication to negate inflammation and manage pain
- Physical therapy to help the TMJs work optimally
- Occlusal appliances (mouth guards) to help hold the jaw in the proper placement
- Injections into the surrounding soft tissues to relax the joint
In the most severe cases or when standard TMJ treatment is ineffective, surgery may be recommended to fully correct the joint. For example, if a patient still experiences a locked jaw even with medication and mouth guards, the dentist may recommend open-joint surgery to correct structural issues within the joint.
Contact a clinic like Stobbe Family Dentistry, Implants, and Orthodontics to learn more.