TMJ, short for temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, results from a set of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement. The temporomandibular joint joins the mandible and maxillae to form the jaw, with the mandible forming the lower moveable part, and the maxillae forming the upper fixed part. This joint can be felt by simply placing a finger in front of the ears and opening the mouth. This joint rests within a reinforcing capsule, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side. This movement enables talking, chewing and even yawning by way of muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint.
TMJ can be subdivided into three general categories: (1) Myofascial pain, which is the most common disorder relating to pain or discomfort in the muscles that control jaw function, (2) Internal derangement of the joint, which includes a displaced disc, dislocated jaw, or injury to the condyle, or (3) Degenerative arthritis, which are degenerative/inflammatory joint disorders. A patient may have one or more of these types, and there can be other health problems that co-exist with TMJ disorders.
- Pain in the face, jaw or neck
- Jaw muscle stiffness
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw
- Painful clicking, popping or grinding in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth
- A change in the bite between upper and lower teeth
- Incorrect bite
- Habitual grinding of teeth
- Trauma to the jaw or temporomandibular joint
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Birth defects
- Upper and lower jaw malalignment
- Asymmetrical mandible bone growth
A splint or night guard is the most common recommended treatment. Splints and night guards are custom made plastic mouthpieces that fit over the upper and/or lower teeth. They prevent the upper and lower teeth from coming together, lessening the effects of teeth grinding or clenching. Night guards also help reposition bite by allowing the lower jaw to settle into a more correct and comfortable position. The main difference between splints and night guards is night guards are simply worn at night and splints are worn 24 hours a day. Your dentist will discuss with you what type of mouth guard is best for you.
Dental treatments, such as replacing missing teeth or correcting uneven teeth by use of crowns, bridges or braces to balance the biting surfaces of your teeth, can reduce or often eliminate pain. Your dentist may consult with specialists to assist in your treatment.
Extensive dental records (including head and skull radiographs and diagnostic casts) may be required to evaluate TMJ disorders. A neuromuscular evaluation may also be necessary to identify the area or areas involved in the TMJ disorder. This is a painless procedure and usually takes one to two hours to complete.
- Better jaw mobility
- Freedom from pain or discomfort
- Improvement of your bite and chewing
- Improves your outlook on life.