Commonly referred to as TMJ, the temporomandibular joint is one of the most complex joints in the human body. In this post, our dentists in Winnipeg describe three main types of disorders of the TMJ joint.
What is TMJ Disorder?
The joint that connects the skull's temporal bones (located just below your temple and in front of your ear) to the jaw is called the TMJ. You use this joint every time you move your jaw to eat, speak or breathe.
When there is a problem with the jaw and facial muscles, temporomandibular joint disorders can occur. You might start to feel pain in the area and if the disorder is severe enough, the joint may eventually become immobile.
There are three main types of TMJ disorders:
Types of TMJ Disorder
Known as myofascial pain, muscle disorders involve pain or discomfort in all the muscles controlling the function of your jaw. You may experience pain in your neck, shoulders and jaw muscles.
Joint Derangement Disorders
A small, soft disc between the temporal bone and the condyle makes the opening and closing of the jaw smooth and easy. This disc is also a shock absorber for the jaw joint during its movements.
When joint derangement disorders occur, the jaw's inner workings are disrupted or unbalanced due to a damaged bone or dislocation of a disc. The displacement of the disc leads to internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. There is currently no surgery to 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.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
No matter which type of TMJ Disorder you have, you’ll likely feel pain in your face, jaw, and around your ears when you open your mouth to talk or eat.
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 to see a dentist
If home remedies such as gently massaging your jaw and neck muscles, avoiding stress, chewing gum, and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are not effective, you should see your dentist.
The dentist 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, which could include:
- Dental splints
- TMJ Therapy
- Oral Surgery (for severe cases)
- Physical Therapy
- Prescription medications
With your dentist’s help, your TMJ Disorder can often be managed with a combination of dental care and home remedies.