The initials TMJ are commonly used to refer to a disorder of the jaw that often causes headaches and other discomfort. The Temporomandibular joint is the focus of these issues. TMJ is more properly known as TMD, or Temporomandibular Disorder. Over time, the initials TMJ have become so associated with the condition that many people do not even realize the difference.
So, What is TMJ Really?
The Temporomandibular Joint is the flexible hinge joint located between the back of the jawbone (mandible) and the skull. (temporal bone) The joint attaches right in front of the ear, an area with high sensitivity. The TMJ is designed for maximum flexibility, allowing the jaw to move easily up and down as well as side to side. This extended movement, not found in all joints, makes the TMJ prone to issues.
Temporomandibular disorder can cause a wide range of symptoms. Some last for a short time, while others may trouble patients for years. Women are more likely than men to suffer from TMD. It is most common in young adults between 20 and 40 years of age.
Common symptoms include: a tender feeling in the jaw and nearby muscles in the neck and face; clicking in the joint; discomfort or pain when chewing; ringing in the ears; tooth or headache; and in certain cases the jaw may stick open or closed.
TMD can be caused by trauma or injury to the jaw, or surrounding muscle groups in the face, neck and shoulders. Direct impact, or sudden jerks, such as whiplash can contribute.
Other causes may include grinding or clenching of the teeth due to habit, or stress, a dislocation of the soft cushion inside the joint or rheumatoid or osteoarthritis in the temporomandibular joint itself.
Treatments for TMJ
Our staff understands the importance of applying the right fix to the right problem. With TMD, the treatments can range from a simple night guard appliance, to protect the teeth and realign the jaw, to open jaw surgery. In most cases, dental work, medication for pain or stress, and other simple remedies can help to alleviate symptoms.
We will work with you to locate the cause of your discomfort and apply the treatment indicated to alleviate the problem. Our goal is always to get our patients back to as normal a life as possible, as quickly and comfortably as possible. While issues with TMD can be stressful, they are not unmanageable and we will explore a full range of options to get you back to your normal self.