Temporomandibular joint disorders
Temporomandibular joint disorders occur as a result of problems with the jaw, temporomandibular joint and surrounding facial muscles that control jaw movements.
Does your jaw make you suffer? Make an appointment to discuss options for treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders!
The temporomandibular joint
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull bone. This joint is located immediately in front of the ear on each side of the head. The muscles attached to the jaw allow it an incredible amount of movement, from side to side, from top to bottom, and so on. It is through this flexibility that we can chew, talk and yawn.
Symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders
People with TMJ disorders experience severe temporomandibular joint pain and discomfort. Among these:
- Pain or sensitivity to the face, temporomandibular joint area, neck and shoulders, in or around the ears when chewing, talking or yawning;
- limited ability to open your mouth;
- jaws that block when the mouth is open or closed;
- cracking, squeaking or noises in the joint when the mouth is open or closed;
- feeling tired in the face or neck;
- difficulty in chewing;
- a sudden sensation of discomfort while chewing;
- swelling on the side of the face;
- headaches or neckaches;
- hearing problems;
- pain in the upper shoulder;
- ringing in the ears.
The pain can last for years or months only. More women than men experience pain with TMJ, and the disorder is more common in people aged 20 to 40 years. It is important to report symptoms of TMJ disorders to your dentist AND to your doctor as they may also be due to other causes.
Contributing Factors to Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
The main cause of temporomandibular joint disorders remains unknown, but scientists believe that symptoms are caused by problems in the jaw muscles or in parts of the joint. We often talk about:
- bruxism or grinding of teeth;
- rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatment Options for Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
Most of the time, symptoms of temporomandibular disorders disappear on their own, as the joint recovers during the forced rest of the jaws that are unable to chew.
Recommended home remedies include taking anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen, consuming liquid foods, and applying warm compresses to the painful area.
If symptoms persist, medical treatment may be required. Your dentist will tell you about some stretching and relaxing muscle exercises to do at home to relax your jaw. Your dentist could prescribe occlusal plates or trays to cover your teeth from the top and bottom, much like a sports mouth guard, especially if you have a habit of clenching your teeth. The splint is designed to reduce clenching or creaking of teeth during the night and, therefore, to soothe muscle tension.
If non-invasive treatment options do not reduce pain or sensitivity, your dentist may recommend more invasive procedures. For example, cortisone injections can help relieve inflammation and pain. Rest assured: Few patients need surgery to replace the temporomandibular joint with an artificial implant.