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TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) Disorders

Excerpt: During your dental checkups, the dentist will check your jaw to the point where it hinges open and closes. They may ask you to also...
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What is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)?

The temporomandibular joint joint allows the jaw to hinge open and close which allows you to perform a range of critical tasks such as; speaking and eating. Since we do this consistently on a daily basis, this joint goes through consistent wear and tear.

TMJ therapy  refers to operating on a group of health problems that may be associated with your TMJ, it can also be referred to as TMJD (
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders). These disorders may include;
 
  • Tenderness
  • Local pain and swelling
  • Mobility issues
 
There is a wide range of causes that may allow these disorders to occur.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Fast Facts

  • TMJ disorders can occur from a variety of issues.
  • Most treatments can be done at home by the patient.
  • It’s nearly impossible for a patient to diagnose the TMJ disorders by themselves.

During your dental checkups, the dentist will check your jaw to the point where it hinges open and closes. They may ask you to also open and close your mouth a few times to make sure there are no issues. What they are doing is checking for a range of issues and complications that may occur in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

This joint allows the jaw to hinge open and close which allows you to perform a range of critical tasks such as; speaking and eating. Since we do this consistently on a daily basis, this joint goes through consistent wear and tear.

TMJ therapy refers to operating on a group of health problems that may be associated with your TMJ, it can also be referred to as TMJD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorders). These disorders may include;
 
  • Tenderness
  • Local pain and swelling
  • Mobility issues
 
There is a wide range of causes that may allow these disorders to occur.
Man lying on side with toothache

Temporomandibular Joint Causes

Since the origin of TMJ can be vague, it is a difficult issue to diagnose what initially caused it to occur in the first place. Some of the causes that may be at the root of the issue may be:

  • Arthritis

  • Joint erosion
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Structural problems

Temporomandibular Joint Symptoms

Your TMJ symptoms will also vary, this can make it difficult for the patient to recognize that there is a direct cause for this issue. Pain and discomfort may come directly from the joint, or from the area surrounding the joint. Some common symptoms from TMJ are:

 

  • Pain in the face & or the neck
  • Muscle stiffness in the jaw
  • Limited jaw mobility
  • Lockjaw
  • Noises from the TMJ area (these manifest as clicks or pops)
  • Change in the alignment of the upper and lower mandibles
 
These symptoms may be felt on both sides of the face, or on just the left or right side.

How is TMJ Diagnosed?

Due to the vagueness of the disorder, and the abundance of causes, there is no standard TMJD test, however, there are tactics to see if the TMJ is the issue. Your dentist may need to refer you to an (ENT) Specialist (ear, nose throat) doctor as well to verify the diagnosis.
 

The initial tests the dentists perform may range from:

 

  • Feeling the TMJ area for swelling, or other tactile symptoms
  • X-rays of the jaw
  • CT scans of the jaw
  • Or an MRI

How can the Temporomandibular Joint be treated?

If TMJD occurs, there are a variety of DIY methods that may be recommended to fix the issue, some of these at-home methods include:

 

  • Having a soft food diet
  • A cold compress on the TMJ area
  • Minimizing jaw movement
  • Reducing stress
  • Stretching your jaw with specific exercises
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) example

If your symptoms don’t improve, you will need help from your dentist:


  • Pain medication
  • Stabilization splints
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Can TMJ be prevented?

If the issue resulted from a genetic disorder or birth defect, then it cannot be prevented. You may also develop issues later on in life such as arthritis which can have a variety of causes outside of your control. The best way to “prevent” TMJD, is to be aware of the factors in life you do have control over, like bruxism, or stress management. Though, if you do get it, it was most likely a factor that was not your fault.

The good news is that TMJD rarely needs to have serious treatments, mindfulness of the disorder is the best chance to treat it using the strategies listed in the previous section of the article.

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