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TMJ Temporomandibular Joint

What are the temporomandibular joints (TMJ)?

The temporomandibular joint, TMJ, connects the lower jaw to the bone at the side of the head. When you place your fingers in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel them move. Muscles attached to the jaw joint control its position and movement. To keep this motion smooth, a soft disc absorbs shocks to the jaw joint from chewing and other movements. This joint is one of the most complicated in the body.

What is temporomandibular disorder (TMD)?

The disorder falls into three main categories:
  • Muscle pain is the most common TMJ disorder
  • Displaced disc, dislocated jaw, or injury
  • Arthritis
Most people have mild forms of this disorder. Sometimes, the condition lasts long-term. Complex cases of prolonged pain, poor health, and lower quality of life require a team of experts from fields such as neurology, rheumatology, pain management, and oral surgery.

What causes TMJ Disorder?

Trauma to the jaw, stress, and tooth grinding seem to have a role in the development of TMJ disorders. But we don't always know the causes. Jaw clicking is common in the general population. Jaw noises alone, without pain or limited jaw movement, do not indicate a TMJ disorder and do not warrant treatment.

What are the symptoms of TMD?

  • jaw discomfort or soreness (often most pronounced in the morning or late afternoon)
  • headaches
  • earaches or ringing in the ears
  • popping or clicking of the jaw joint
  • locking of the jaw
  • mouth opening is limited
  • clenching or grinding of the teeth
  • sensitivity of teeth

Treatment for TMJ / TMD

Self-Care Practices
  • eating softer foods
  • applying ice packs
  • relaxation techniques and stress management
  • behavior modification (to reduce or eliminate the clenching of the teeth)
  • avoiding extreme jaw movements (such as wide yawning and gum chewing)
Pain Medications
For many people with TMJ disorders, short-term use of over-the-counter pain medicines may provide temporary relief from jaw discomfort.

Occlusal Guards
Your dentist may construct a splint or bite guard, which is a hard plastic guard that fits over the upper or lower teeth. It should not cause permanent changes in the bite.