A TMJ disorder is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint, also known as TMJ. TMJ is the joint that connects the mandible or lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull. The temporomandibular joint is a sliding joint and helps the jaw to perform a complex set of movements. There are two TMJ joints, one on the left side and the other on the right side of the jaw.
The temporomandibular joint, like other joints of our body, comprises of bone, blood vessels, and muscles. When the TMJ joint cannot function normally, several types of disorders may arise. TMJ disorders can be caused by internal or external trauma on the jaw and jaw joints. Internal trauma can be bruxism or a tendency to grind teeth and jaw tightening or clenching. External trauma can be due to an accident, a fight, or any forceful external impact on the jaw. Sometimes TMJ symptoms can also be caused due to aging, bone decay, and diseases.
If you suffer from any or more of the following symptoms, then the chances are that your jaw joint is not able to function properly. The most commonly reported symptoms related to TMJ disorder are:
- Pain around facial muscles
- Tinnitus and ear pain
- Pain around jaw joints
- Audible sound on jaw maneuvering
- Abnormal jaw movements
- Jaw getting locked in close/open position
- Headache, vertigo, nausea, vomiting
TMJ disorders are mostly first diagnosed by dentists as they know conservative treatments. Complex TMJ disorder treatment can involve a team of doctors, including dentists, physicians, surgeons, and ENT specialists. TMJ disorders are first treated by conservative methods, which in most cases, show healing. Only 1 % of patients with TMJ disorders require joint replacement therapy.
When to see a dentist for TMJ?
If you find yourself involuntarily grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw often, you need immediate help. Visit a dentist who can make a splint to help break that habit or involuntary movement. It is best to control internal trauma at the earliest so as not to develop TMJ disorder.
It is possible that once TMJ disorder sets in, it is perpetuated more by its effects. This implies that due to any trauma, if TMJ causes a change in the setting of your teeth or the position of your bite, then the condition is worsened by not correcting the disorder. If you fear this is the case with you, then it is best to visit your dentist. The dentist will apply orthodontics or restorative dentistry to change the bite position. Bite restoration may require grinding and working on the teeth to bring back the balance. Patients who undergo restorative dentistry can be prescribed medicines to heal pain or infection of joints. They can also be advised to follow certain practices and physical therapies to get back to normal. These can include:
- Eating soft foods or liquid foods
- Avoiding clenching of jaw/grinding of teeth
- Moving the jaw carefully and slowly, only if necessary
- Resting the jaw on one’s hands when moving
- Use of mouth splinters for jaw resting
- Certain jaw position correction exercises
TMJ disorder, though not life-threatening, can impair your everyday life and lead to more complexities. Get expert TMJ disorder information at Abingdon Box Hill Dentistry.