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TMJ: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

The temporomandibular joint, which can also be called the TMJ, is probably one of the most complex joints in the human body. In this blog, our dentists in Vancouver go over the three main TMJ disorders (TMD), including their symptoms and treatments.

What is TMJ Disorder?

The TMJ is the joint that connects the temporal bones of your skull (situated just under your temple, in front of your ear) to your jaw. You use this hinge every day when you move your jaw to eat, talk, and breathe.

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) develop when there's a problem with your facial muscles or jaw. You start feeling pain in this area, and if the disorder becomes more severe, you might not be able to move the joint.

Types of TMJ Disorder

There are actually three main types of TMJ disorders:

Joint Degenerative Disorders

Most often called osteoarthritis, this joint degenerative disorder occurs when the cartilage holding the round ends of the two bones in your jaw together wears away or breaks.

Cartilage absorbs shocks during movement and lets your bones easily glide over each other. When the cartilage erodes, you will experience swelling and pain and might not be able to move your jaw.

Muscle Disorders

Also called myofascial pain, muscle disorders consist of pain and discomfort in all of the muscles that control the function of your jaw. You might also feel 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 a person has a joint derangement disorder, the inner workings of the jaw become unbalanced or disrupted because of a damaged bone or dislocated disc.

This displaced disc causes internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. Currently, there is no surgical solution to this problem.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

With all TMJ disorders, you’ll probably feel pain in your face and jaw. The area surrounding your ears could hurt, and you'll experience an ache when you open your mouth to talk or eat.

Other symptoms could include:

  • Grinding, clicking, or popping sounds when you open your jaw
  • Headaches, dizziness, or pain in your temples
  • Facial bruising or swelling
  • Problems opening, closing, or clenching your jaw
  • Additional pain in your neck and/or shoulders

When You Should See a Dentist for TMJ Treatment

If at-home remedies such as avoiding stress, chewing gum, gently massaging your neck and jaw muscles, and trying over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have not been helpful, you should make a dental appointment.

A dentist will review your dental history, perform a thorough examination of your bite and jaw, and take x-rays to assess your condition before providing an official diagnosis of TMJ Disorder. The treatment he or she recommends could include:

  • TMJ therapy
  • Oral Surgery
  • Physical Therapy
  • Prescription medications
  • Dental splints

Your dentist should be able to help you manage your TMJ Disorder with a combination of home remedies and attentive dental care.

To learn more about TMJ disorders or to schedule an appointment with one of our dentists contact our Vancouver dental office today.

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