TMJ (or temporomandibular joint) is the hinge that connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull. Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are disorders that affect the jaw movement, joint or muscles surrounding the TMJ. The causes of TMD are not clear but dentist believe symptoms often include joint component or joint muscle problems as a result of injury, jaw clenching, dislocation, arthritis or osteoporosis.
People with TMD often complain of mild to severe pain of the face, jaw, neck and around the ears when they chew, speak or open their mouth wide. Others complain of a “locking jaw”, clicking or popping sounds or improper bite alignment.
Since these symptoms may also be caused by other conditions, careful diagnosis is required by your dentist. Often times, panoramic x-rays are taken, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT scans are utilized.
There is an extreme range of treatments for TMD ranging from simple remedies to extensive surgery. The following list of treatments range from minor to extensive:
- Apply hot or cold packs
- Eat soft foods
- Take muscle relaxing medications
- Practice good posture
- Learn and apply relaxation techniques
- Wear a night guard – a plastic device designed to lessen the effects of teeth clenching
- Dental corrective treatments to balance the biting surfaces
- Nerve stimulation
- Ultrasound treatments
- Trigger point injections – pain medications injected into the pain trigger points
- Radio wave therapies
- Minor arthrocentesis surgery – Cleansing injections into the joint
- Arthroscopy – Typically involves the removal of damaged tissue or realignment of components
- Open-joint surgery to repair damaged components