What is TMJ?
When you think about joints wearing down or developing problems, you probably think about your hip, knee or shoulder joints. The joint that controls the movements of your mouth probably doesn’t come to mind.
But the temporomandibular joint (commonly referred to as the TMJ), which connects the jaw to the lower skull in front of each ear, is very important. A healthy TMJ allows you to open and close your jaw and move it side to side so you can chew, speak and yawn comfortably. Problems with the TMJ can cause significant pain and discomfort and interfere with biting and chewing.
What Are Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disease or disorder (called TMD) affects the joint and the muscles that control it. The TMJ consists of a rounded protrusion of the lower jaw that sits against an indentation in the lower jaw. There is a disc-like structure covered in cartilage between the two bones. Ligaments from different parts of the head and neck hold the TMJ together and help guide its movement; also, muscles are connected to the ligaments and help guide the motion of the lower jaw.
Like other joints in the body, the TMJ can suffer an injury or fracture, become displaced or develop arthritis, all of which lead to TMD.
Symptoms of TMD include the following:
- Jaw and facial pain
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Difficulty chewing
- Stiffness in the jaw (lockjaw)
- Audible clicking or popping noises when opening or closing the mouth or chewing
- Swelling on the side of the face
- Hearing problems
Treatments for TMD
Dr. Porter treats TMD on a case-by-case basis depending on the circumstances of your individual problem. TMJ therapy can involve a number of different techniques and special technologies.
Usually the first line of defense against TMJ problems is over-the-counter medications (e.g., ibuprofen) to alleviate pain. Applying heat or cold compresses to the sides of the face may help soothe discomfort associated with TMD. Following a soft-foods-only diet is also recommended. Managing stress through meditation, breathing exercises or therapy can help alleviate teeth grinding that aggravates the TMJ.
If these remedies don’t work, Dr. Porter might recommend an alternative therapy such as wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard. These mouthguards reposition and support your jaw as you sleep. They also prevent you from clenching or grinding your teeth. Your mouthguard is designed specifically for the contours of your mouth.
If you have a bite problem, Dr. Porter can recommend repairing misaligned teeth, replacing missing teeth or using other means to balance out your bite. A more balanced bite supports a healthy TMJ.
Physical therapy with guided exercises can help restore normal movement, relax the muscles and alleviate pain.
Rarely, surgery is needed to remedy problems with the TMJ.
Learn More about the TMJ
If you think you are experiencing pain and other symptoms related to TMJ problems, Dr. Porter can help. Please request an appointment at Porter Dental Health Clinic to get checked out and discuss your symptoms with Dr. Porter. Call or email us today!