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TMJ: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

The TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, is one of the most complex joints in your body. Here, our North York dental team explains three main types of TMJ disorders (also called TMD), as well as their symptoms and treatment options. 

What is TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint is what connects the temporal bones of your skull (found just below your temple and in front of your year) to your jawbone. This hinge is used to do everything from moving your jaw to eating, speaking and even breathing.

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) happen when there is an issue with your jaw and facial muscles. You begin to experience pain in the area and if the disorder progresses to a severe state, the joint may eventually be unable to move.

Types of TMJ Disorder

There are actually three main varieties of disorders that can affects your TMJ:

Joint Degenerative Disorders

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

Cartilage absorbs the shock of movement in your jaw, allowing your bones to glide over one another quite easily. When this cartilage erodes, pain and swelling will occur and you may not be able to move your jaw properly.

Muscle Disorders

Also referred to as myofascial pain, muscle disorders involve pain and discomfort in all the muscles controlling the function of your jaw. You may also experience pain in your jaw muscles, shoulders and neck.

Joint Derangement Disorders

A soft, small disc located between the temporal bone and the condyle makes the opening and closing of the jaw smooth and easy. This disc is also important as it absorbs shocks to the jaw joint that happen during movement.

When an individual experiences a joint derangement disorder, the inner workings of their jaw are unbalanced or disrupted because of dislocated discs or damaged bones. 

This displaced disc causes internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. As of right now, there are no surgical solutions to this variety of TMD.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

With every type of TMJ Disorder, you’ll likely experience pain in your jaw and face. The area around your ears may hurt, and you’ll feel an ache when you open your mouth to eat or talk.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Facial bruising or swelling
  • Headaches, dizziness or pain in your temples
  • Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
  • Additional pain in your neck and/or shoulders
  • Grinding, clicking or popping sounds when you open your jaw

When You Should See a Dentist for TMJ Treatment

If at-home remedies like avoiding stress, chewing gum and gently massaging your jaw and neck muscles in addition to trying over-the-counter non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (also called NSAIDS) have not helped as much as you would like, you should make a dental appointment to speak with a professional about your condition. 

Your dentist will review your dental history, perform a thorough examination of your bite and jaw, and take x-rays to assess before providing an official diagnosis of TMJ Disorder. The treatment he or she recommends may include:

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

Your dentist can help you manage your TMJ Disorder with a combination of home remedies and attentive dental care.

Are you experiencing symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, or jaw pain? Our dentists may be able to develop a customized treatment plan to help. Book an appointment with our North York dentists today.

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