TMJ Disorders: What do they affect?
The TMJ is the joint that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull (located just below your temple and in front of your ear). this hinge is an important part of your daily movement, especially since it is used to breathe!
Temporomandibular joint disorders affect the muscles, bones and joints in the face. While the pain may begin slowly and only be mild, it can increase with time and eventually lead your joint to become immobile.
The three main types of TMJ disorders seen are:
The Different Types of TMJ Disorder (TMD)
Myofascial Pain / Muscle Disorders
This pain is known as myofascial pain and involves discomfort or pain in all the muscles that control your jaw’s function. You may feel pain in your shoulders, neck, and jaw muscles.
Joint Derangement Disorders
To make the opening and closing of the jaw easy and smooth, there is a small, soft disc placed between the condyle and the temporal bone. The purpose of this disc is to absorb the shock of facial movements.
With joint derangement disorders, the inner workings of the jaw are unbalanced or disrupted due to a damaged bone or dislocation of a disc. The displacement of the disc leads to internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. Unfortunately, this condition is unable to be treated using surgical procedures.
Joint Degenerative Disorders
Joint degenerative disorders are more commonly referred to as osteoarthritis. The round ends of the two bones in a joint are held together by cartilage. This allows the bones to glide easily over each other. It also absorbs shocks during movements.
A joint degenerative disorder occurs when cartilage wears away or breaks away. You may lose movement of the joint due to the pain and swelling that you might experience.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
No matter which type of TMJ Disorder you suffer from, you will find a noticeable difference in the pain felt when trying to eat, talk and breathe.
Some of the other symptoms that may accompany TMJ disorders include:
- Clicking, popping, or grinding sounds when you open your jaw
- Additional pain that moves down into your neck and shoulders
- Headaches, pain in your temples or dizziness
- Facial bruising or swelling
- Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
When to see a dentist
If home remedies such as gently massaging your jaw and neck muscles, avoiding stress, chewing gum, and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are not effective, you should see your dentist.
The dentist will review your dental history, complete a thorough exam of your jaw and bite, and take X-rays to study before officially diagnosing you with TMJ Disorder and recommending treatment, which could include:
- Dental splints
- TMJ Therapy
- Oral Surgery (for severe cases)
- Physical Therapy
- Prescription medications
Your dentist might be able to help you develop a treatment plan to help alleviate the pain caused by TMJ disorders.