TMJ: What Is It?

[dropcap]TMJ[/dropcap] stands for TemporoMandibular Joint. The two TM joints attach the lower jaw to the skull. They are the most complex and active joints in the human body.

They are used to talk, chew, yawn, sing or shout. When the joints malfunction, an imbalance of the jaw occurs which results in facial pain and headaches. These disorders are often referred to as TMJ disorders. One or more of these related signs can indicate a possible TMJ condition and should be discussed with our highly trained staff.

  • Chronic, reoccurring headaches
  • Click, pop or grating sound in the jaw
  • Limited jaw opening or locking
  • Pain when chewing
  • Difficulty in closing the teeth together
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Earaches, congestion or ringing ears
  • Dizziness
  • Neck, back or throat pain
  • Tired, tight jaws
  • Scalp tenderness
  • Swallowing difficulty

CAUSES: There are many factors which can cause or contribute to TMJ disorders. They include trauma – any blow to the head or chin, whiplash injury, poor posture, abnormal bite (malocclusion), arthritis and hereditary growth and development factors which contribute to skeletal malformation. Stress at work or home also has an impact on TMJ disorders. Muscle strain and spasm begin when the disc becomes displaced. Early signs of a TMJ disorder usually include clicking or popping noises. More severe displacements can be very painful. If left untreated, permanent change can result.

HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED & TREATED? Due to the variety of symptoms and health problems that can be misdiagnosed, we pride ourselves in providing a thorough examination which includes taking a comprehensive patient history and performing a thorough clinical exam. We then provide a comprehensive array of diagnostic services. We use x-rays, motion performance studies and joint vibration analysis (a form of ultrasound sonography) to help in the diagnosis of TMJ disorders.

OUR OFFICE PROVIDES CONSERVATIVE, NON-SURGICAL TREATMENT FOR TMJ DISORDERS: Often proper treatment can alleviate months or years of pain and suffering. Treatments vary considerably with each individual patient and may include fabrication and fitting of precise, custom-fitted orthotic appliance (sometimes called “splints”) to realign and stabilize the jaw joint, restore comfort and improve jaw function.

We provide various physical therapies which are used to reduce pain and inflammation and also promote healing. Medication regimens, dietary recommendation and vitamin supplements are often explored to aid in healing.

An Interdisciplinary Approach: TMJ patients often suffer from other related muscular skeletal problems including neck, back, hip, and even foot problems. In these cases, appropriate referrals may be made to other health care practitioners.