TMJ Disorder: What does this condition affect?
The TMJ is the joint that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull (located just below your temple and in front of your ear). When you are eating, talking, breathing or using your mouth in any way then you are using this hinge.
Temporomandibular joint disorders occur when there is a problem with the facial muscles and the jaw. You might start to feel pain in the area and the joint can eventually become immobile if the disorder is severe enough.
There are three main types of TMJ disorders:
What are the main types of TMJ disorder experienced by patients?
Muscle Disorders (Myofascial Pain)
This pain is known as myofascial pain and involves discomfort or pain in all the muscles that control your jaw’s function. You may feel pain in your shoulders, neck, and jaw muscles.
Joint Derangement Disorders (Disc Displacement)
There is a small, soft disc placed between the condyle and the temporal bone which makes all of your mouth movements happen smoothly. This disc also absorbs shocks to the jaw joint during its movements.
With joint derangement disorders, the inner workings of the jaw are unbalanced or disrupted due to a damaged bone or dislocation of a disc. The displacement of the disc leads to internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. For the moment, no surgery can treat this problem.
Joint Degenerative Disorders (Osteoarthritis)
When your dentist talks about this type of TMJ disorder they may be referring to it 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. This is also the way that your body absorbs the shock of the movements you make with your mouth.
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.
What are the symptoms associated with TMJ disorders?
The majority of your pain, regardless of the type of TMJ disorder you suffer from, will be felt when you talk, eat or breathe.
Other potential 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
What should you reach out to your dentist?
If you have attempted all of the recommended at-home pain relief options and you are still experiencing discomfort then you should contact your dentist for an explanation.
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.