The temporomandibular (tem-puh-roe-mun-DIB-u-lur) joint (TMJ) is the hinge that connects the jawbone to the skull. Some people experience headaches or pain in the neck, shoulders, or jaw. This is called dental malocclusion. It is also referred to by temporomandibular disorder or TMD.
A variety of issues may lead to chronic pain.
Signs of TMJ disorders may include:
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
- Clicking sound or grating sensation when opening your mouth or chewing.
The TMJ joint moves like a hinge but also slides. The parts of the bone that move with the joint are covered in cartilage and have disks that act like shock absorbers. The construction of the joint keeps everything moving smoothly.
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Painful disorders of the TMJ can happen if:
- The disk erodes or gets moved out of alignment
- Cartilage is damaged
- A sudden blow or impact compromises the function of the joint
Who’s at risk?
Anyone can experience pain or discomfort in the TMJ joint. However, the most common TMJ disorders occur in women between the ages of 20 and 40 years of age. Approximately 35 million people in the United States have TMJ problems. Genetic, hormonal and other environmental factors may increase the risk of TMJ/TMD.
What can you do to prepare for your appointment with us?
Chad Schnabel, DMD is a specialist with TMJ disorders and will talk with you about you about your symptoms. You may want to prepare for your consultation by preparing some brief notes on:
- When did your symptoms start?
- What has been your history with TMJ pain or discomfort?
- Has your stress level increased recently?
- Do you or a loved one notice teeth grinding at night?
- What is the frequency of headaches, neck aches, toothaches or other pain symptoms?
- Are you currently on any medications or supplements?
What additional questions will Dr. Schnabel have for you?
- Is your pain constant or sporatic?
- Do you feel a clicking or popping in your jaw? Is it painful?
- Is there any activity that seems to coincide with the pain?
- Can you open your mouth normally?
- Do you have sleep apnea?
What will happen during the TMJ exam?
- Dr. Schnabel will listen to your jaw and feel your jaw when you open and close your mouth.
- The range of motion in your jaw will be observed.
- Various areas of your jaw may be pressed to identify specific pain points or locations of discomfort.
- An X-ray may be needed to identify any problems with teeth.
TMJ treatment options
In some cases Dr. Schnabel may determine that symptoms will go away without treatment. Other treatments range from medications, bite splint/orthotic, physical therapy, equilibration and functional reconstruction, and a variety of other specific procedures.
What can I do until my TMJ appointment?
- If your jaw is sore and in pain, limit the use of jaw muscles.
- Eat soft foods or cut your food into small pieces.
- Applying ice to the area of pain may give temporary relief.
- Try to relax. Some TMJ disorders are brought on by stress. If you are holding stress in your jaw, try and relax the muscles throughout the day.
- Over the counter medications can provide short-term relief
- Avoid chewing gum