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Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Explained

The temporomandibular joint, TMJ, is found on both sides of the jaw. We all have TMJ. However, for some of us, a TMJ disorder can cause discomfort. This means that when you hear someone complaining, “I have TMJ!” What they are likely referring to is a problem with their TMJ.

So, let us break down what the TMJ does and why it can be problematic for some.

Temporomandibular Joint Explained

The name of this joint is derived from its connection points. It connects the skull’s temporal bone and the mandible (jaw). The TMJ acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. It has an essential job as it allows you to open and close your mouth. What is especially interesting about the TMJ is that both joints must move in tandem to accomplish the goal of moving and opening your mouth. It is a bilateral joint that functions as one to get a bit technical.

TMJ Disorder

These joints have a critical job and are used frequently. Therefore, due to the usage and other factors, many people may experience problems with their TMJ. Signs of TMJ disorder may include:

  • Pain or tenderness of your jaw
  • Pain in one or both sides of your jaw
  • Aching pain in and around your ear
  • Difficulty or painful chewing
  • Aching facial pain
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
  • Headaches
  • Clicking or popping sounds when moving the jaw
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Tooth pain

The disorder has a wide range of causes, and the direct cause is often unknown. However, here are a few of the common causes of TMJ disorder:

  • Teeth grinding/clenching (bruxism)
  • Dislocation of the disc between the ball and socket joint
  • Arthritis
  • Stress
  • Trauma
  • Improper bite

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Explained

Treating TMJ Disorder

Upon diagnosis of the disorder, your dentist will provide a treatment plan. Conservative treatment options include:

  • Apply heat or ice to the area
  • Avoiding sticky, hard, crunchy foods
  • Over the counter anti-inflammatory medications
  • Custom-fit mouthguard
  • Corrective dental treatments
  • Relaxation techniques to control muscle tension in the jaw
  • Avoid extreme movements like opening the mouth widely to yawn

In some cases, your dentist may recommend additional treatments like ultrasound and even surgery in certain instances.

Talk to Your Dentist Today

If you have been experiencing discomfort in the jaw it is time to talk to your dentist. They can diagnose and create a treatment plan to help decrease your symptoms.