“TMJ” is short for temporomandibular joint, a hinge that connects your jaw to your skull. The joint lets you move your jawbone up and down, so you can talk, chew and yawn.
What is TMJ disorder?
TMJ disorders can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement. Symptoms of TMJ disorders include:
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
TMJ disorders can also cause a clicking sound or grating sensation when you open your mouth or chew. But if there’s no pain or limitation of movement associated with your jaw clicking, you probably don’t need treatment for a TMJ disorder.
Causes of TMJ disorder include injury to the teeth or jaw, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, teeth grinding, poor posture, stress, arthritis, and gum chewing.
Dr Shawn Rama at The Dental Room can perform a variety of tests to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of TMJ disorder. One technique is to firmly touch your muscles and jaw joint, checking for pain, muscle tension and tenderness. A stethoscope picks up clicking sounds in your joint and a ruler measures how wide you can open your jaw.
Dr Shawn can also use imaging tests such as tomographic or transcranial X-rays that reveal images of bones and reveal damage, fracture or tumors. Other tests include a CT scan to provide detailed images of the bones involved in the joint, and MRIs to reveal problems with the joint’s disk. He may also employ dental casts to determine whether your teeth are coming together correctly and how your joint and surrounding muscles affect your bite.
In some cases, the symptoms of TMJ disorders may go away without treatment. If your symptoms persist, The Dental Room can recommend a variety of treatment options, including:
Bite guards (oral splints) – a soft or firm device inserted over your teeth.
Physical therapy – ultrasound, moist heat and ice, along with exercises to stretch and strengthen jaw muscles.
Arthroscopy/Arthrocentesis – used when localised joint pain doesn’t respond to other treatments. A tiny instrument or small needles are inserted through a small incision to flush the joint and insert an anti- inflammatory agent.
Soft tissue repair – for clients with severe soft tissue damage; tightens up stretched connective tissue and ligaments and puts the disk back into position, releasing “locked” jaws.
Joint restructuring – used primarily for arthritis patients with badly deteriorating joints, such as severed disks or disks with holes in them.