About TMJ |TMD
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. TMJ disorders can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement. The symptoms of TMJ disorders can vary quite a bit from patient to another. One patient can just have muscle pain or headaches, and another can have significant disruption of function. Many patients experience difficulty in chewing and inability to open their mouths widely or there are variations of jaw movement limitation.
The exact cause of a person’s TMJ dysfunction requires detailed examination and study, and in many cases special imaging technologies. Your pain may be due to a combination of problems, such as arthritis or jaw injury. Some people have problems that are inherited, and others are acquired due to injury or some form of trauma that affects the jaw over a period of time. One form of trauma that is particularly common is that which is caused by chronic clenching of the teeth during sleep or even during waking hours.
In some cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders can be alleviated with self-managed care and/or conservative treatment over period of time. Other patients have more complex problems that require more significant treatment, sometimes including surgical treatments. Severe TMJ disorders may require treatment from a number of specialists that sometimes includes surgical repair.
Symptoms of TMJ
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
TMJ disorders can also cause a clicking sound or grating sensation when you open your mouth or chew. If this problem continues over time and seems to be getting worse slowly, it is probably something that should be evaluated by a TMJ specialist.
Causes of TMJ
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) combines a hinge action with sliding motions. The parts of the bones that interact in the joint are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk, which normally keeps the movement smooth.
- Painful TMJ disorders can occur if:
- The disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment
- The joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis
- The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact, even if this occurred many years ago and seemed at the time to be insignificant.
In many cases, however, the cause of TMJ disorders isn’t clear. TMJ disorders most commonly occur in women between the ages of 20 and 40, but may occur at any age.
Our office has specialized in the treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders for many years. As one of the only orthodontist in the Bay Area with extensive training and experience in treating jaw joint disorders, I bring a unique perspective in evaluating not only patients who are seeking treatment for TMD, but that same perspective is used in evaluating routine orthodontic patients, so that our treatment plan is oriented towards improving not only the patient’s bite and smile, but also planned to improve the function of the patient’s jaw joints and muscular balance. If you have symptoms of TMD and are concerned about them, you can arrange to have an appointment for a comprehensive evaluation of this problem. This is different from a standard screening visit for orthodontic treatment, and much more comprehensive and scope.