What is TMJ?
The Temporomandibular Joint is represented by the abbreviation TMJ and symbolizes the first three anatomic areas of the head.
T = Temporal bone (skull)
M = Mandible (lower jawbone)
J = Joint (connects the two bones)
The Temporomandibular Joint acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. This joint is unique due to its two joints; one on either side of the head that connect to the lower mandible (jawbone). The TMJ joints work together, whereas other joints work independently. When these joints break down, it can be debilitating. The result of their breaking down is referred to as TMD. TMJ disorders can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.
The exact cause of a person's TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine. Your pain may be due to a combination of problems, such as arthritis or jaw injury. Trauma induced TMJ disorders are found to be the statistic majority for patients. As a response mechanism to pain of any kind, people frequently clench or grind their teeth. This may be conscious or unconscious but it is not normal. It should be evaluated to determine why it is happening before it creates a micro trauma injury to the jaw joint. In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders can be alleviated with proper diagnosis and non-surgical treatments. Severe TMJ disorders may require surgical repair.
Although not as commonly used, disorders (improper function & pain) of the temporomandibular joint (TMD) may be used.
T = Temporal bone
M = Mandible
D = Disorder/Dysfunction
We don’t know for certain how many people have TMJ disorders, but some estimates suggest that over 10 million Americans are affected. The condition appears to be more common in women than men.
Physicians for years have called TMJ disorders “The Great Imposter” because so many of the symptoms they were chasing originated from TMJ disorders.
Craniofacial Pain also referred to as Orofacial pain , is an emerging dental specialty that used to fall under the category of temporomandibular disorders (TMJ/TMD). TMJ therapy is associated with Craniofacial Pain management, the latter covers a broader set of conditions within the head, neck and shoulders that sometimes manifests as facial pain.
What Causes TMD/TMJ?
The most common cause is bruxism, or clenching of the teeth in our sleep. Bruxism is a movement disorder. There is NEW evidence showing bruxism (grinding) as a “protective mechanism” against a breathing disorder or constriction of the airway. LEARN MORE ABOUT BRUXISM.
Other contributing factors are injuries in the jaw, intubation, arthritis, genetics, dental procedures, autoimmune diseases, motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, and stress.
What are TMD/TMJ Symptoms?
TMJ symptoms can involve the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, bones and connective tissue in the jaw, head and neck.
Common symptoms include:
- Being unable to open the mouth comfortably
- Tired/tight jaws
- Locking of the jaw when opening or closing the mouth
- Teeth grinding or clenching
- Clicking, popping and grating sounds
- Headaches recurring or chronic
- Neck, Shoulder and back pain, stiffness
- Feeling of a foreign object in your throat, difficulty swallowing
- A bite that feels uncomfortable or “off”
- Swelling on the side of the face
- Ringing in the ear, ear pain, decreased hearing, stuffiness
- Dizziness, vertigo and vision problems, nausea
- Pain behind the eye
Diagnosing a TMJ disorder can be difficult, which is why it’s important to find a dentist trained in TMJ/TMD therapy to find the root cause of your symptoms. Dr. David, of TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of New England, has undergone extensive training and completed advanced education in TMD/TMJ treatment.
Forward Head Posture
Renee Cailliet, M.D.