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What Is TMJ?

What Is TMJ?

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is characterized by pain in the jaw joint. A wide range of medical issues can cause TMJ syndrome.

The TMJ joins your lower jaw – called the mandible – to your skull’s temporal bone that’s located at the front of your ear. Your facial muscles that handle chewing are also connected to your lower jaw.

Problems in your lower jaw region may lead to:

  • Head & neck pain
  • Facial aches
  • Ear pain
  • Headaches
  • Difficulties opening the jaw
  • Jaw clicking
  • Biting problems
  • Popping sounds when you bite

Your TMJ is designed to move both up and down as well as from side to side, making it one of the most complex joints in the body. These complex movements allow you to coordinate these actions so you can talk, chew, and yawn. This complexity makes severe TMJ disorders difficult to treat effectively.

TMJ syndrome is also known as temporomandibular joint disorder.

TMJ Disorder Causes

TMJ syndrome can be caused by trauma, disease, wear & tear as you get older, or oral habits.

Trauma: Trauma can happen from the inside, such as teeth grinding (bruxism) and jaw clenching. The continuous pressure put on the temporomandibular joint can change your teeth alignment. The muscles involved in these movements can inflame the membranes surrounding the joint. Trauma can also happen externally when the jaw is injured by an impact, such as a fall or a punch. These types of injuries can cause TMJ dislocation, damage to the cartilage disc of the joint, or can break the jawbone. Also, TMJ pain can be the result of dental work where you have your mouth stretched open for long periods of time.

Disease: Osteoarthritis can affect your jaw bone just like any other joint in your body. Degenerative joint disease causes a slow and steady loss of cartilage and new bone can form at the surface of the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes joint inflammation and can affect your TMJ. As RA progresses, it can cause cartilage destruction, bone loss, and eventually lead to joint deformity.

Wear & Tear: The usual wear and tear of normal aging can cause bone/cartilage loss, joint inflammation that can ultimately cause jaw deformity.

Oral Habits: Habits such as biting your nails and other items, like pencils and toothpicks, can cause TMJ syndrome. Gum chewing, ice crunching, and biting hard candy can also contribute to TMJ syndrome. When you do these activities over long periods of time, they can unevenly load one side of the jaw, leading to muscle overuse and pain.

Orthodontics: A TMJ Syndrome Treatment Option

Orthodontics is the type of dentistry specializing in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of conditions affecting the alignment of the teeth and jaw. Orthodontists can correct TMJ syndrome through the use of braces, appliances or Invisalign.

TMJ orthodontics uses these methods to slowly change your bite and jaw alignment by pushing your teeth into the proper positions to fill any gaps. These types of orthodontics can help relieve wear and tear on your teeth, headaches, grinding, and clenching.

To create a custom dental appliance, your dentist takes impressions of your teeth which is used to mold an appliance that fits over your existing teeth. You can tighten or loosen the appliance easily and quickly, and you probably will experience little to no discomfort.

For More Information on TMJ Syndrome Treatment

To find out more about TMJ disorders and how a dental appliance can help, or you want to find out more about other treatment options, contact us for a personal consultation.

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