TMJ Disorders: What They Are
Your TMJ is the joint connecting the temporal bones of your skull to your jaw. This complex structure allows you to move your jaw so you can eat, talk and even breath.
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) happen when there is an issue with your jaw and facial muscles. You begin to experience pain in the area and if the disorder progresses to a severe state, the joint may eventually be unable to move.
Types of TMJ Disorders
There are actually three main types of TMJ disorders:
Joint Degenerative Disorders
Most commonly known as osteoarthritis, this joint degenerative disorder happens when cartilage holding the round ends of the two bones in your jaw together breaks or wears away.
Cartilage is essentially a shock absorber that allows bones to glide more fluidly over each other. When this substance erodes, it can lead to pain and swelling of the area, and you may notice a reduced range of motion in your jaw.
Also referred to as myofascial pain, muscle disorders involve pain and discomfort in all the muscles controlling the function of your jaw. You may also experience pain in your jaw muscles, shoulders and neck.
Joint Derangement Disorders
A soft, small disc located between the temporal bone and the condyle makes the opening and closing of the jaw smooth and easy. This disc is also important as it absorbs shocks to the jaw joint that happen during movement.
When someone developes a joint derangement disorder, the inner workings of the jaw will become disrupted or unbalanced due to a dislocated disc or damaged bone.
This displaced disc causes internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. Currently, there is no surgical solution to this problem.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
With every type of TMJ Disorder, you’ll likely experience pain in your jaw and face. The area around your ears may hurt, and you’ll feel an ache when you open your mouth to eat or talk.
Other symptoms may include:
- Facial bruising or swelling
- Headaches, dizziness or pain in your temples
- Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
- Grinding, clicking or popping sounds when you open your jaw
- Additional pain in your neck and/or shoulders
When You Should See a Dentist for Your TMJ Issue
If at-home remedies such as avoiding stress, chewing gum, gently massaging your neck and jaw muscles, trying over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have not proven effective, you should make a dental appointment.
Your dentist will need to take a look through your dental history and thoroughly examine your bite and jaw. They may also need to take X-rays to asses your jaw before providing a diagnosis. The treatment he or she recommends may include:
- Oral Surgery
- Dental splints
- TMJ therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Prescription medications
Your dentist can help you manage your TMJ Disorder with a combination of home remedies and attentive dental care.