TMJ is a condition that occurs when a trauma or injury affects the temporomandibular joint, and is sometimes known as TMD or temporomandibular disorder. It generally involves the jaw and the muscles around the mouth becoming “locked,” or unable to move properly. This condition is quite uncomfortable or painful, and can make it difficult to chew or speak properly. As many as 10 million people in the US suffer from TMJ each year, with many more going undiagnosed.
TMJ Causes and Symptoms
TMJ can have a number of different causes that may not be initially apparent. Stress-related teeth grinding, crooked teeth, improper bite, arthritis in the joint, or a dislocation of the jaw may all be causes of TMJ. The symptoms of this disorder also vary, and can be hard to spot, especially if they are not particularly severe. Symptoms include:
- A clicking noise in the jaw when opening the mouth or chewing
- Pain or tenderness in the face and jaw that may also extend out to the ears and down to the neck or shoulder
- An inability to open the mouth or jaw widely
- Facial swelling
- The jaw freezing or locking in place when you open or close your mouth
When diagnosing TMJ your dentist will ask if you have any of the above symptoms before performing an examination of your jaw and temporomandibular joint to check for any tenderness or inflammation. They will also try to determine the underlying cause of your TMJ by taking x-rays and checking for problems with your teeth and bite.
Treatment of TMJ varies widely based on the cause of each case. In cases of stress or teeth grinding, you will most likely be prescribed or given a night guard in addition to any treatments that may be needed to fix teeth grinding issues. Relaxation and stress relief techniques such as yoga, exercise, and meditation may also be recommended. If dental issues are causing your TMJ, you may be prescribed treatments such as dental crowns, bridgework, and even braces. In cases of trauma or injury medications may be used, including muscle relaxers to help prevent the joint from locking. Any patient with TMJ will also likely be advised to avoid caffeine and difficult to chew foods such as caramel, as well as chewing gum.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above and suspect that you may be suffering from TMJ, call Roger L Gillespie, DDS at 310-325-4155 for a consultation today. Dr. Gillespie has experience treating a number of TMJ cases and will be able to identify the cause and correct treatment procedure for your case quickly so that you can be comfortable and pain-free once more.