The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint the connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull. It is located on both sides of the head in front of the ears. This joint works in two ways to open the mouth. The first way is to simply open and close the mouth, like a door hinge. The second way is a sliding motion called translation, which allows the lower jaw to move down and forward. This motion allows the TMJ to move backwards and forwards and from side to side when eating, yawning and other mouth movement. TMJ disorders can cause tenderness at the joint, facial pain, and difficulty moving the joint.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
- Misaligned bite (problem with the way teeth fit together)
- Jaw dislocation or injury
- Erosion of the joint
- Habitual grinding or clenching of the teeth
What are the symptoms of TMJD?
The most common symptom of TMJD is pain in the jaw and surrounding muscles. The symptoms of TMJ disorders depend on the severity and cause of your condition. Symptoms may show up on just one side of the face, or both. Other symptoms typically include:
- Pain in or around the jaw or ear
- Headaches and neck aches
- Stiffness or tenderness of the jaw or jaw muscles
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- Clicking or popping sound when opening the mouth
- Shift in the jaw, changing the way that the upper and lower teeth align
How is TMJD treated?
In most cases, you can treat the symptoms of TMJ disorders at home. To ease the symptoms of TMJ you can:
- Eat soft foods
- Use ice to reduce swelling
- Take pain medications (such as ibuprofen)
- Avoid chewing gum and tough foods (like beef jerky)
- Reduce stress
- Use jaw-stretching exercises to help improve jaw movement
If your symptoms don’t improve with these treatments, your doctor may prescribe or recommend the following:
- Medications to relax the muscles of the jaw (such as Flexeril, Soma, or Valium)
- Medications to help reduce swelling in the jaw (corticosteroid drugs)
- Bite guards to prevent teeth grinding
- Botox to reduce tension in the muscle and nerves of the jaw
In rare cases, your doctor may recommend surgery or other procedures to treat your condition. Call New Town Dentistry today to schedule your appointment if you have these symptoms.