Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

The TMJ is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw to the upper jaw.  TMJ disorders occur as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint, and surrounding facial muscles that control the chewing and moving of the jaw.

This joint is immediately in front of the ear on each side of the head.  The joints are flexible and enable chewing and speaking.

 

What causes TMJ disorders? 

 

Injury to the jaw joint or facial muscles is the most common problem and can be caused from a combination of problems resulting from:

 

  • Clenching and grinding of teeth.
  • Dislocation of the soft cushion known as a disc surrounding the TMJ.
  • Presence of arthritis in the TMJ
  • Stress, which can cause a person to tighten their face muscles.
  • Whiplash or a concussion.
  • Automobile accident.
  • Injury to the chin.

 

How are TMJ disorders diagnosed?

A dentist with advanced training in this subject can perform several detailed tests to diagnose the condition.  Often times, a MRI is necessary to accurately visualize the joints condition.  Sounding devices similar to an ultrasound can be used to listen for abnormal conditions and noises that otherwise may be undetected by ear alone.

Symptoms of TMJ disorders can include:

 

  • Pain or soreness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, in and around the ear.
  • Limited ability to open the mouth very wide.
  • Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” open or closed.
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth. This may or may not be accompanied with pain.
  • A tired feeling in the face.
  • Difficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly.
  • Swelling on the side of the face.
  • Toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, earaches, and hearing problems.
Below are symptoms linked to a TMJ Disorder