The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. Temporomandibular joint disorder, known more commonly as TMD, occurs when there are problems with the muscles and jaws in the face.
What are the Symptoms of TMJ?
TMJ disorders have many signs and symptoms. It’s often hard to know for sure if you have TMJ, because one or all of these symptoms can also be present for other problems. Your dentist can help make a proper diagnosis by taking a complete medical and dental history, conducting a clinical examination and taking appropriate X-rays.
Some of the most common TMJ symptoms include:
- Headaches (often mimicking migraines), earaches, and pain and pressure behind the eyes
- A clicking or popping sound when you open or close your mouth
- Pain brought on by yawning, opening the mouth widely or chewing
- Jaws that “get stuck,” lock or go out
- Tenderness of the jaw muscles
- A sudden change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together
It’s been estimated that up to 30% of adults will experience TMD at some point in their lives.
What are the causes?
Possible causes of TMD include:
- clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth during sleep (bruxism) – which overworks the jaw muscles and puts pressure on the joint (often caused by stress)
- wear and tear of the inside of the jaw joint – usually caused by osteoarthritis
- injury to the jaw joint – for example, after a blow to the face or surgery
- stress – some people may inherit increased sensitivity to pain or stress
- uneven bite – for example, when new fillings, dental crowns or dentures are fitted
- specific diseases – TMD may be associated with specific diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout or fibromyalgia
However, some people may develop TMD without an obvious cause being found.
How is TMJ Treated?
While there is no single cure for TMJ, there are different treatments you can follow that may reduce your symptoms dramatically. Your dentist may recommend one or more of the following:
- Trying to eliminate muscle spasm and pain by applying moist heat or taking medication such as muscle-relaxants, aspirin or other over-the-counter pain-relievers, or anti-inflammatory drugs
- Diet – try eating soft foods and avoiding extreme jaw movements, like yawning and gum chewing.
- Reducing the harmful effects of clenching and grinding by wearing an appliance, sometimes called a bite plate or splint. Custom-made to fit your mouth, the appliance slips over the upper teeth and keeps them from grinding against the lower teeth
- Learning relaxation techniques to help control muscle tension in the jaw. Your dentist may suggest you seek training or counselling to help eliminate stress
TMJ occurs when the complex joint that “hinges” your upper and lower jaw does not work well.
If you think you could be affected by TMJ, contact the dental surgery to make an appointment with one of our specialists who can give you further advice.
01727 800 372