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TMJ: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

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The temporomandibular joint, commonly referred to as the TMJ, is one of the body’s most complex joints. Here, our Thornhill dentists explain the three main types of TMJ disorders (TMD), their symptoms, and when you should see a dentist. 

What is TMJ Disorder?

The TMJ is the joint connecting the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear) to your jaw. This joint hinge is used to do everything that involves jaw movement, including eating, talking, and even breathing. 

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) happen when there is an issue with your jaw and facial muscles. Patients who suffer from TMD begin to feel pain and stiffness in the TMJ area. If the disorder goes untreated it may progress to a severe state in which the joint is unable to move. 

Types of TMJ Disorder

There are actually three main types of TMJ disorders:

Joint Degenerative Disorders

Most commonly known as osteoarthritis, this degenerative joint disorder happens when cartilage holding the round ends of the two bones in your jaw together breaks or wears away.

Cartilage absorbs shocks during movement and allows your bones to glide easily over each other. When the cartilage erodes, pain and swelling will occur, and you may not be able to move your jaw.

Muscle Disorders

Also referred to as myofascial pain, muscle disorders involve pain and discomfort in the muscles that control the function of your jaw. Patients with myofascial pain may also experience pain in their shoulders and neck. 

Joint Derangement Disorders

A soft, small disc located between the temporal bone and the condyle makes the opening and closing of the jaw smooth and easy. This disc is also important as it absorbs shocks to the jaw joint that happen during movement.

When an individual has a joint derangement disorder, the inner workings of the jaw are disrupted or unbalanced due to a dislocated disc or damaged bone.

This displaced disc causes internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. Currently, there is no surgical solution to this problem.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

With every type of TMJ Disorder, you’ll likely experience pain in your jaw and face. The area around your ears may hurt, and you’ll feel an ache when you open your mouth to eat or talk.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Facial bruising or swelling
  • Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
  • Headaches, dizziness or pain in your temples
  • Grinding, clicking or popping sounds when you open your jaw
  • Additional pain in your neck and/or shoulders

When You Should See a Dentist for TMJ Treatment

If at-home remedies such as avoiding stress, chewing gum, gently massaging your neck and jaw muscles, or trying over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have not proven effective, you should make a dental appointment.

Your dentist will review your dental history, perform a thorough examination of your bite and jaw, and take X-rays to assess before providing an official diagnosis of TMJ Disorder. They may recommend a range of treatments for your disorder including:

  • TMJ therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Oral Surgery
  • Dental splints
  • Prescription medications

Your dentist can help you manage your TMJ Disorder with a combination of home remedies and attentive dental care.

Do you think you may be suffering from TMD? Book an appointment with our Thornhill dentists today to discuss your treatment options. 

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