TMJ Disorder: What is it and how does it affect your body?
The joint that you use to eat, talk, and even breathe is called the temporomandibular joint. TMJ is the joint that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull (located just below your temple and in front of your ear).
Temporomandibular joint disorders occur when there is a problem with the facial muscles and the jaw. This will cause persistent pain which could eventually lead to a loss of use of the joint entirely.
There are three main types of TMJ disorders:
The Different Types of TMJ Disorder
Muscle Disorders / Myofascial Pain
This pain is known as myofascial pain and involves discomfort or pain in all the muscles that control your jaw’s function. You may feel pain in your shoulders, neck, and jaw muscles.
Joint Derangement Disorders
To make the opening and closing of the jaw easy and smooth, there is a small, soft disc placed between the condyle and the temporal bone. This disc also absorbs shocks to the jaw joint during its movements.
With joint derangement disorders, the inner workings of the jaw are unbalanced or disrupted due to a damaged bone or dislocation of a disc. The displacement of the disc leads to internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. For the moment, no surgery can treat this problem.
Joint Degenerative Disorders
This disorder is more commonly known as osteoarthritis. The round ends of the two bones in a joint are held together by cartilage. This allows the bones to glide easily over each other. It also absorbs shocks during movements.
A joint degenerative disorder occurs when cartilage wears away or breaks away. The patient will experience pain, swelling and won’t be able to move the jaw.
The Typical Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
Regardless of the type of TMJ disorder you suffer from, you will have pain to some degree along with a variety of other common symptoms.
Other symptoms can include:
- Clicking, popping, or grinding sounds when you open your jaw
- Additional pain that moves down into your neck and shoulders
- Headaches, pain in your temples or dizziness
- Facial bruising or swelling
- Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
When should you contact your dentist or orthodontist?
If you have been using a variety of home treatment methods such as pain medication, gum chewing and massage without relief then you should contact your dental professional to request an evaluation.
The orthodontist will review your dental history, complete a thorough exam of your jaw and bite, and take X-rays to study before officially diagnosing you with TMJ Disorder and recommending treatment.
Some of the treatment options that they may recommend include:
- Dental splints
- TMJ Therapy
- Oral Surgery (for severe cases)
- Physical Therapy
- Prescription medications
With your orthodontist’s help, your TMJ Disorder can often be managed with a combination of dental care and home remedies.