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TMJ: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

Often referred to as the TMJ, our temporomandibular joint is one of the body's most complex joints. Here, our dentists in Canmore explain three main types of TMJ disorders (TMD), symptoms and treatment options.

What is TMJ Disorder?

The joint connecting your skull's temporal bones (located just below your temple, in front of your ear)to your jaw is the TMJ. This hinge is used to allow you to do everything from moving your jaw to eating, talking - even breathing. 

When there is an issue with your jaw and facial muscles, temporomandibular disorders (TMD) can occur. You start to experience pain in the area and if the disorder progresses to a severe state, you may eventually be unable to move the joint.

Types of TMJ Disorder

There are three main types of TMJ disorders:

Joint Degenerative Disorders

Often known as osteoarthritis, this joint degenerative disorder happens when cartilage holding the round ends of the two bones in your jaw together wears away or breaks. 

Cartilage absorbs shocks during movement, and allows your bones to glide easily over each other. When the cartilage erodes, swelling and pain will occur, and you might not be able to move your jaw.

Muscle Disorders

Muscle disorders (also known as myofascial pain) involve pain and discomfort in all the muscles that control the function of your jaw. You might also experience pain in your jaw muscles, neck and shoulders. 

Joint Derangement Disorders

A soft, small disc located between the temporal bone and the condyle makes the opening and closing of the jaw smooth and easy. This disc is also important as it absorbs shocks to the jaw joint that happen during movement.

When an individual has a joint derangement disorder, the inner workings of the jaw are disrupted or unbalanced due to a dislocated disc or damaged bone.

This displaced disc causes internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. Currently, there is no surgical solution to this problem.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

With every type of TMJ Disorder, you’ll likely experience pain in your jaw and face. The area around your ears may hurt, and you’ll feel an ache when you open your mouth to eat or talk.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Facial bruising or swelling
  • Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
  • Headaches, dizziness or pain in your temples
  • Grinding, clicking or popping sounds when you open your jaw
  • Additional pain in your neck and/or shoulders

When You Should See a Dentist for TMJ Treatment

If at-home remedies such as avoiding stress, chewing gum, gently massaging your neck and jaw muscles, trying over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have not proven effective, you should make a dental appointment.

Your dentist will review your dental history, perform a thorough examination of your bite and jaw, and take x-rays to assess before providing an official diagnosis of TMJ Disorder. The treatment he or she recommends may include:

  • TMJ therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Oral Surgery
  • Dental splints
  • Prescription medications

Your dentist can help you manage your TMJ Disorder with a combination of home remedies and attentive dental care.

Are you experiencing headaches, dizziness, or jaw pain? We may be able to develop a custom treatment plan to help. Book an appointment with our Canmore dentists today.

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