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TMJ: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is among the most complex joints in the human body. Today our Manitoba dental team discusses the three main disorders of the TMJ joints (TMD's) as well as their symptoms and the treatments available.

What is TMJ Disorder?

The TMJ connects the temporal bones of your skull (located just below your temple, in front of your ear) to your jaw. You use it when moving your jaw to eat, talk, even breath.

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) occur when there is a problem with your jaw and facial muscles. You start to feel pain in the joint area and if the disorder progresses to a severe state, the joint might eventually not be able to move.

Types of TMJ Disorder

There are actually three main types of TMJ disorders:

Joint Degenerative Disorders

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

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

Muscle Disorders

Also, known as myofascial pain, muscle disorders consist of pain and discomfort in all the muscles controlling the function of your jaw. You might also experience pain in your jaw muscles, shoulders, and neck.

Joint Derangement Disorders

There is a soft, small disc located between the temporal bone and the condyle. This disk allows for smooth and easy movements when opening and closing the jaw. It's also important because 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 TMJ Disorder, you’ll likely experience pain in your jaw and face. The area around your ears may also hurt, and you’ll feel an ache when you open your mouth to eat or talk.

Other symptoms could include:

  • Facial bruising or swelling
  • Headaches, dizziness or pain in your temples
  • Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
  • 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, over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) haven't helped your symptoms,  make an appointment with your dentist.

Your dentist will review your dental history, conduct a comprehensive examination of your bite and jaw, and take X-rays to be able to provide you with an official TMJ Disorder diagnosis. The treatments they recommend could include:

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

Your dentist will be able to help you manage your TMJ Disorder with a combination of home remedies and routine dental care. 

If you are suffering from jaw pain, dizziness or headaches contact our Manitoba dentists to schedule an appointment.

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