What is TMJ Disorder?

what is tmj disorder - ThoroughDent Smiles

Temporomandibular joint disorder or syndrome refers to the pain that you may feel in the jaw joint as a result of one or more factors. The temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to the skull. This joint is found in front of your ear. TMJ is on either side of your jaw. Generally, more women than men suffer from TMJ disorder. In this article, you’ll learn everything that you need to know about TMJ disorder as explained by the professionals at ThoroughDent Smiles.

What Causes TMJ Syndrome?

Trauma. According to Dr. Kristina Neda, a dentist in Georgetown KY, the trauma associated with TMJ syndrome can be either macrotrauma or microtrauma. Microtrauma refers to the trauma that happens internally, such as when you clench or grind your teeth. Microtrauma causes the muscles of the TMJ to become inflamed. Eventually, you’ll develop TMJ disorder as a result. Macrotrauma has to do with the trauma which happens externally, such as when you are punched in the jaw. Such a blow may break your jaw, damage the cartilage in the TMJ, dislocate the jaw or have any other effect which can compromise the proper functioning of the TMJ.

Diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, cancer and other diseases can also affect the TMJ and result in TMJ disorder. For example, if you have rheumatoid arthritis and it progresses, the cartilage and bone around the TMJ can be eaten away. Eventually, the joint will become deformed and you will develop TMJ disorder.

Normal wear and tear. We asked our friend, Dr. Taher Dhoon, a dentist in Greeley, CO, about the causes of TMJ disorder. Dr. Dhoon adds that the normal stresses to which the TMJ is subjected can gradually trigger TMJ disorder in some people. This is likely to happen as you age.

Poor oral habits. Experts at ThoroughDent Smiles warn their patients to watch their oral habits because poor oral habits can be a cause of TMJ disorder. For example, people who frequently bite on hard items, such as pencils, have an increased likelihood of developing temporomandibular joint syndrome.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?

Pain. People who suffer from TMJ disorder often have pain around the jaw joints or facial muscles. This pain can radiate to the shoulders and neck or even the scalp. Pain due to TMJ syndrome can occur as you chew, yawn or talk.

Sounds in the joints. Some people with TMJ disorder may hear sounds, such as popping, grating or clicking. Dr. Jordan Smith explains that these sounds may indicate that the discs in the TMJ have moved out of position. People without disc problems don’t hear any sound as they use or move their jaws.

Swelling. It is also common for the mouth and face of someone suffering from TMJ disorder to swell. Only the affected side swells due to the inflammation affecting the area irritated or overstretched.

Muscle spasms. TMJ disorder may also trigger muscle spasms and these spasms make it hard for you to swallow anything, even saliva.

A locked jaw. In some cases, someone’s jaw may become locked in the open position, or the person may be unable to open the jaw fully. According to Dr. Kristina Neda, any forceful attempt to open a locked jaw causes severe pain.

How Can TMJ Disorder Be Diagnosed?

The symptoms above can be triggered by a completely different health condition, so you should not rush to conclude that you have TMJ disorder. Contact TMJ experts at ThroughDent Smiles for a proper diagnosis which will be based on one or more of the diagnostic steps below.

Your medical history. In diagnosing your pain, you will be asked several questions about the type of pain, where it is centered, what alleviates or aggravates it, your oral habits and other follow-up questions once you answer the basic ones posed.

Physical exam. You will also be subjected to a physical examination of your neck, head, face and TMJ. Of special interest will be any tenderness, sounds, the range of motion, your assessment of pain when different parts are manipulated and the alignment of your teeth.

Imaging tests. Your doctor could also order for an x-ray to be taken so that he or she can take a closer look at the bones in your jaw and mouth.

What Treatment Options Are Available?

The specific approach used to treat you when you are diagnosed with TMJ disorder will vary depending on the specific causes or factors associated with your condition. The following are some of the options when treating this disorder.

Medications. OTC or prescription medications may be used to treat TMJ syndrome. These medication can help in pain relief or addressing muscle spasms.

Use of appliances. Dr. Kristina Neda reveals that different appliances, such as splints, bite plates and mouthguards may also be used to treat or manage TMJ. For example, a splint can relieve muscle tension when someone whose TMJ disorder is associated with teeth clenching wears this appliance at night.

Physiotherapy. Individuals who suffer from chronic or recurrent TMJ disorder may also be referred to a physical therapist so that they can be helped to restore muscle strength, joint mobility and pain management.

As you can see, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder can be treated in many ways depending on how it is manifesting and the underlying factors behind it. Contact ThoroughDent Smiles if you suspect that you or a loved is suffering from TMJ syndrome. Our experts will give you the help that you need or refer you to other professionals who are better suited to treat or manage the symptoms you are experiencing.