What is TMJ Disorder?
The joint that connects the jaw to the skull's temporal bones (located just below the temple and in front of your ear) is called the TMJ. You use this hinge joint each time you move your jaw to eat, talk or breathe.
When there's a problem with the jaw and facial muscles, temporomandibular joint disorders occur. You may start to experience pain in the area and the joint can eventually become immobile if the disorder is severe enough.
Here are three main types of TMJ disorders:
Types of TMJ Disorder
Known as myofascial pain, this type of pain involves pain or discomfort in all the muscles that control your jaw's function. You might feel pain in your neck, shoulders and jaw muscles.
Joint Derangement Disorders
A small, soft disc between the condyle and temporal bone helps the jaw to open and shut smoothly and easily. This disc also absorbs shocks to the jaw joint during its movements.
With joint derangement disorders, the jaw's inner workings are unbalanced or disrupted due to a damaged bone or dislocation of a disc. The displacement of a disc leads to internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. For the moment, no surgery is available to treat this problem.
Joint Degenerative Disorders
Also known as osteoarthritis, this disorder involves the cartilage that holds the round ends of the two bones in a joint together. Cartilage allows the bones to glide easily over each other. It also absorbs shocks during movement.
When cartilage erodes or breaks away, a joint degenerative disorder occurs. The patient will experience swelling and pain, and won't be able to move the jaw.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
No matter which type of TMJ Disorder you have, you’ll likely feel pain in your face, jaw, and around your ears when you open your mouth to talk or eat.
Other symptoms can include:
- Clicking, popping, or grinding sounds when you open your jaw
- Additional pain that moves down into your neck and shoulders
- Headaches, pain in your temples or dizziness
- Facial bruising or swelling
- Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
When to see a dentist
If home remedies such as gently massaging your jaw and neck muscles, avoiding stress, chewing gum, and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are not effective, you should see your dentist.
The dentist will review your dental history, complete a thorough exam of your jaw and bite, and take X-rays to study before officially diagnosing you with TMJ Disorder and recommending treatment, which could include:
- Dental splints
- TMJ Therapy
- Oral Surgery (for severe cases)
- Physical Therapy
- Prescription medications
With your dentist’s help, your TMJ Disorder can often be managed with a combination of dental care and home remedies.