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What Are Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders?

Posted by Legacy Dental Clinic Jan 04, 2023

The TMJ connects the lower jaw to the rest of the skull. It allows the jaw to move up and down and side to side. TMJ disorders can cause pain, limited movement, or locking of the jaw.

What is TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw to the skull and allows the jaw to move in all directions. This joint is flexible, but it can become strained due to too much or too little movement. This pain is centered where the two temporomandibular joints connect. Both joints work together to open and close the mouth. TMD can be painful and make basic life functions like speaking and eating difficult. The most common symptoms of TMJ disorders are pain in the jaw area, difficulty opening and closing the mouth fully, headaches, locking of the jaw, and clicking or popping sounds when the mouth opens or closes.

What are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?

The most common symptoms of TMJ disorders are pain in the jaw area, difficulty opening and closing the mouth fully, headaches, locking of the jaw, and clicking or popping sounds when the mouth opens or closes. Other symptoms include ringing in your ears and locking of the joint causing limited mobility. You may also experience muscle stiffness in your jaw and have difficulty chewing food.

How is TMJ Disorder Diagnosed?

Your dentist will examine your jaw, mouth, and surrounding facial areas to determine the cause of the pain. They’ll also take X-rays of your teeth and jaw to determine if your bite is misaligned and causing the pain. In some cases, you may need to have an MRI or CT scan done to help your doctor pinpoint the exact cause of your pain. These tests can help rule out other potential causes of jaw pain, such as sinus problems or a cyst in your jawbone.

Next steps after getting diagnosed with TMD:

  • If your symptoms are caused by clenching or grinding your teeth, your dentist may recommend you wear a splint or nightguard to help you stop this habit at night. This can also help reposition your jaw to ease your discomfort, as well as prevent damage to your teeth.
  • If your symptoms are caused by stress, anxiety, or depression, your doctor may prescribe medication to help relieve these symptoms. They may also provide cognitive behavioral therapy to help you learn different coping skills for stress management.
  • If your symptoms are caused by a misaligned bite, your dentist may recommend orthodontic treatments to correct this problem. Braces are the most common treatment used for this purpose.
  • Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy for your jaw. Physical therapy stretches the muscles around your jaw to help them relax. This will help reduce the pain and discomfort you feel. You may also be given exercises to perform at home to help keep your muscles loose and flexible.
  • Finally, if none of the above treatments prove effective, your doctor may recommend surgery as a last resort. Surgery is often the last effort because the recovery time can be long and painful. However, it may provide permanent relief from your symptoms.

How are TMJ Disorders Treated?

Treatment for TMJ disorders often includes stress reduction, physical therapy, medication, and bite splints or night guards.

Most people with TMJ disorders are able to relieve their symptoms by practicing good jaw mechanics and using relaxation techniques, such as meditation or gentle yoga. However, when these self-care methods don’t work, your doctor may recommend other treatments to help manage your discomfort.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, a visit to your dentist is advised. Your dentist can diagnose you and provide treatment options that can improve your quality of life.

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