What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw, called the mandible, to the bone at the side of the head – the temporal bone of the skull. If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel the joints. Because these joints are flexible, the jaw can move smoothly up and down and side to side, enabling us to talk, chew, and yawn.
Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control its position and movement. When we open our mouths, the rounded ends of the lower jaw, called condyles, glide along the joint socket of the temporal bone. The condyles slide back to their original position when we close our mouths. To keep this motion smooth, a soft disc lies between the condyle and temporal bone. This disc absorbs the shocks to the jaw joint from chewing and other movements.
The temporomandibular joint is different from other joints in the body. The combination of hinge and sliding motions makes this joint among the most complicated in the body. Also, the tissue that makes up the temporomandibular joint differs from other load-bearing joints, like the knee or hip. Because of its complex movement and unique makeup, the jaw joint and its controlling muscles can pose a tremendous challenge to both patients and health care providers when problems arise.
Problems with your jaw and the muscles in your face that control it are known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD). But you may hear it wrongly called TMJ. TMD often causes severe pain and discomfort. It can be temporary or last many years and it may affect one or both sides of your face. More women than men have it, and it’s most common in people between the ages of 20 and 40.
What is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)?
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are disorders of the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints, and the nerves associated with chronic facial pain. Any problem that prevents the complex system of muscles, bones, and joints from working together in harmony may result in temporomandibular disorder.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research classifies TMD by the following:
- Myofascial pain: This is the most common form of TMD. It results in discomfort or pain in the fascia (connective tissue covering the muscles) and muscles that control jaw, neck, and shoulder function.
- Internal derangement of the joint: This means a dislocated jaw or displaced disc (cushion of cartilage between the head of the jaw bone and the skull), or injury to the condyle (the rounded end of the jaw bone that articulates with temporal skull bone).
- Degenerative joint disease: This includes osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw joint.
You can have one or more of these conditions at the same time.
What Causes TMD?
Injury to your jaw, joint, or the muscles of your head and neck – like from a heavy blow or whiplash – can lead to TMD. Other causes can include:
- Undiagnosed or untreated sleep-related breathing disorders (snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome, sleep apnea)
- Grinding or clenching your teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the joint
- Movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball socket of the joint due to excessive tension of the muscles connecting the joint
- Stress, which can cause you to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth
- Arthritis in the joint
Multiple symptoms can accompany TMD, including:
- Jaw discomfort or soreness (often most prevalent in the morning or late afternoon)
- Pain spreading behind the eyes, in the face, shoulder, neck, and/or back
- Earaches or ringing in the ears (not caused by an infection of the inner ear canal)
- Clicking or popping of the jaw
- Locking of the jaw
- Limited mouth motions
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth
- A tired feeling in your face
- Sensitivity of the teeth without presence of an oral health disease
TMD Treatment Options
There are a variety of different ways to treat TMD, some of which include:
- Resting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
- Medications and/or pain relievers
- Relaxation techniques and stress management
- Behavior changes (to reduce or stop teeth clenching)
- Physical therapy
- A nighttime orthopedic appliance or orthotic worn in the mouth (to take the strain off of the joint)
- A daytime orthopedic appliance or orthotic worn in the mouth (to take the strain off of the joint)
- An injection into the joint to “unlock” a non-reducing (stuck) disc
- Trigger point injections into the chewing muscles to relieve pain
- Posture training
- Diet changes (to rest the jaw muscles)
- Ice and hot packs
Find Relief From Your Pain
At Argyle Dental Sleep and TMJ, Dr. Argyle can help diagnose and treat TMD. Living with constant pain can affect your everyday life and create unnecessary stress. If you think you may have TMD, we have the solutions you need, such as oral appliance therapy, to relieve your pain.
Call our Syracuse office at (801) 416-3562 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Argyle or fill out our contact form below.