TMJ: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

The temporomandibular joint, commonly referred to as TMJ, is one of the body’s most complex joints. Here, our Ottawa dentists explain three main types of TMJ disorders (TMD), symptoms and treatment options.

What is TMJ Disorder?

The TMJ is the joint connecting the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear) to your jaw. You use this hinge to do everything from moving your jaw to eating, talking – even breathing.

A problem with your jaw and facial muscles can result in temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). As the disorder worsens, you start to feel pain there, and eventually, the joint might not be able to move at all.

Types of TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorders can fall into three categories:

Joint Degenerative Disorders

Most commonly known as osteoarthritis, this joint degenerative disorder happens when cartilage holding the round ends of the two bones in your jaw together breaks or wears away.

During movement, cartilage absorbs shocks and enables easy bone-to-bone contact. You may not be able to move your jaw as the cartilage deteriorates, and you will experience pain and swelling.

Muscle Disorders

Muscle disorders, also known as myofascial pain, cause aches and discomfort in every muscle that moves your jaw. In addition, the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and jaw could hurt.

Joint Derangement Disorders

The jaw opens and closes easily and smoothly because of a small, soft disc that lies between the condyle and the temporal bone. Due to the fact that it cushions the jaw joint from shocks caused by movement, this disc is also crucial.

When an individual has a joint derangement disorder, the inner workings of the jaw are disrupted or unbalanced due to a dislocated disc or damaged bone.

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

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

With every type of TMJ Disorder, you’ll likely experience pain in your jaw and face. The area around your ears may hurt, and you’ll feel an ache when you open your mouth to eat or talk.

Other symptoms may include:

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

When You Should See a Dentist for TMJ Treatment

Make a dental appointment if at-home remedies like avoiding stress, chewing gum, gently massaging your neck and jaw muscles, and trying over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have not worked.

Prior to making an official diagnosis of TMJ Disorder, your dentist will review your dental history, conduct a complete examination of your bite and jaw, and take x-rays. He or she might suggest the following as a course of treatment:

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

Your dentist can help you manage your TMJ Disorder with a combination of home remedies and attentive dental care.

Are you experiencing headaches, dizziness, or jaw pain? We may be able to develop a custom treatment plan to help. Book an appointment with our Ottawa dentists today.

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