What Is The TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is also known as the jaw joint. Everyone has two jaw joints, one on each side of the head, and it is the movement of these two joints that allows us to move our lower jaw for speaking and chewing.
What Are TMJ Disorders?
Temporomandibular joint disease (TMD) is actually a group of disorders that can affect the joint itself, or the muscles, nerves, and ligaments associated with the joint. These disorders can cause pain, decreased range of motion, clicking/ popping sounds, or locking of the jaw.
A few TMJ disorders include:
- Arthritis: Just like other joints in the body, the TMJ is susceptible to degeneration with increasing age.
- Disc Displacement: In some patients, the cartilage disc inside the jaw joint that serves as a cushion can get displaced from its normal position, commonly resulting in clicking/ popping sounds in addition to pain.
- Myofascial pain syndrome: This is the most common type of TMJ disorder with symptoms that include muscle pain around the jaw, but also associated pain in the head or neck.
- Congenital (developmental) disorders: – There are also rare diseases where the jaw joint and jaw bone do not develop properly, leading to significant facial asymmetry, difficulty opening, and other systemic problems.
Treatment of TMD
Because TMD is such a large group of disorders, each with specific causes and symptoms, the treatment of TMD is entirely dependent on the exact diagnosis. That said, patients with jaw joint pain or muscle pain can often see noticeable improvement in their symptoms with conservative therapy that includes: patient education, rest, heat packs, medications, jaw exercises, or jaw appliances (splint). A jaw appliance (or splint) is a plastic device that looks similar to a mouth guard, but that has been specifically designed to train your jaw to function properly, and thus hopefully improve symptoms. Surgery is sometimes recommended for the most severe cases, but it is not a common treatment option.
TMD can be a very challenging for patients, and Dr. Limmer is specifically trained to diagnose and treat these types of problems. If you are having trouble with your jaw joint or have questions about how your teeth fit together, Dr. Limmer would be happy to evaluate your situation and discuss potential options.