Each person has a joint where the head and the jaw meet. There is also cartilage there which provides a buffer for this joint. Five muscles surround this joint. All of this together is known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The word “temporal” is referring to the temple area of the skull. The word “mandible” is speaking of the lower jaw. When trouble develops in this joint, it is referred to as a TMJ disorder.
Several symptoms may indicate a TMJ disorder:
- Experiencing pain or aches in the facial muscles
- If the TMJ locks, making it difficult to open/close your mouth
- Experiencing difficulty while chewing
- Experiencing aches or pains in the area of either ear
- Experiencing a “clicking” sound while talking/chewing
- Experiencing pain/tenderness in the neck/shoulder area
- Experiencing swelling on the side of your face
Sometimes these symptoms are temporary, and other times they last for many years. These symptoms are not always indicative of a TMJ disorder, so it is imperative to consult with your dentist about any of these symptoms.
It is often difficult to pinpoint the cause of a TMJ disorder, but the following causes are possibilities:
- The joint maybe injured due to an impact in the TMJ area
- The TMJ may be under pressure due to regular grinding or clenching of the teeth
- The disk within the TMJ may be misaligned
- The TMJ may be under pressure due to constant stress and tension of the facial muscles
- A patient may experience rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
There seems to be no single solution for resolving TMJ disorders, but options include the replacement of missing teeth, the adjustment of a patient’s bite, the realignment of the teeth, filling gaps that have developed between the teeth, or other basic dental treatments.