Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) Disorders – Symptoms and Causes

What is Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your lower jaw bone  (mandible) to your skull. The joint is present on both sides of your head in front of your ears. It helps in  the opening and closure of your jaw, allowing you to speak and eat.

The abbreviation TMJ has also been used to refer to a group of health problems associated with your jaw, but this is becoming more commonly abbreviated as TMD or TMJD to differentiate between the temporomandibular joint itself from TMJ disorders. These disorders can lead to tenderness at the joint, facial pain, and trouble moving the joint.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, around as 10 million Americans suffer from TMJD. This disorder is more common among women than men. These disorders are can be treated, but there are many different possible causes. This can make diagnosis challenging.

Keep reading to learn more about TMJD. You should talk about any concerns with your doctor.

What causes Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder?

In many cases, it’s not clear what causes a TMJ disorder. Trauma to the jaw or joint may have a role. There are also other health conditions that may lead to the development of TMJD. These include:

  • arthritis
  • abrasion of the joint
  • habitual grinding or griping of the teeth
  • structural jaw problems present at birth

There are some other factors that are usually related to the development of TMJD, but they haven’t been proven to cause TMJD. These include:

  • the use of orthodontic braces
  • wrong posture that strains the muscles of the neck and face
  • long term stress
  • poor diet
  • sleep apnea

Symptoms of Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)?

The symptoms of TMJ disorders depend on the severity and cause of your condition. The most common symptom of TMJD is pain in the jaw and muscles around it. Other symptoms Generally related to these disorders include:

  • pain that can be felt in the face or neck
  • stiffness in the muscles of the jaw
  • restricted movement of the jaw
  • locking of the jaw
  • clicking or popping sound from the TMJ site
  • changed position of jaw, changing the way that the upper and lower teeth align (called malocclusion)

Symptoms may exposed on just one side of the face, or both.

How is Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) diagnosed?

TMJ disorders can be hard to diagnose. There are no specific tests to diagnose these disorders. Your doctor may send you to a dentist or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist to diagnose your condition.

Your doctor may inspect your jaw to see if there is swelling or tenderness if you got symptoms of a TMJ disorder. Your doctor may also use various different imaging tests. These tests can be following:

  • X-rays of the jaw
  • CT scan of the jaw to watch the bones and joint tissues
  • MRI of the jaw to see if there are any complications with the structure of the jaw

How is Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) treated?

In majority of the cases, the symptoms of TMJ disorders can be treated with self-care practices at home. To relieve the symptoms of TMJ you can:

  • eat soft foods
  • use ice to decrease swelling
  • lower jaw movements
  • avoid chewing gum and hard foods
  • lower the stress level
  • perform jaw-stretching exercises to help improve jaw movement

You may require help from your doctor if your symptoms don’t subside with these treatments. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe or suggest the following:

In rare cases, your doctor may suggest surgery or other procedures to treat your condition. Following are the procedures:

  • pain medications (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen)
  • medications for the relaxation of the muscles of the jaw (such as Flexeril, Soma, or Valium)
  • medications to help reduce swelling in the jaw (corticosteroid drugs)
  • stabilization splints or bite guards to stop teeth grinding
  • Botox to lower tension in the muscle and nerves of the jaw
  • cognitive behavioral therapy to help lower stress
  • corrective dental treatment to improve your bite and align your teeth
  • arthrocentesis, which is the removal fluid and debris from the joint
  • surgery to replace the joint

Procedures used to treat this condition may, in some cases, can worsen your symptoms. Consult your doctor about the possible risks of these procedures.

How can Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) be prevented?

You may not be able to prevent the development of TMJD, but you might be able to lower symptoms by managing your stress levels. It could be helpful to try to stop clenching your teeth if this is an issue for you. Likely vsolutions for teeth grinding include wearing a mouth guard at night and taking muscle relaxants. You may also help prevent teeth grinding by lowering your overall stress and anxiety through counseling, exercise, and diet.

Outlook for Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders

The interpretation for a TMJ disorder depends on the cause of the problem. TMD can be successfully treated in many people with at-home remedies, such as changing posture or reducing stress. If your condition is caused by a chronic (long-term) disease such as arthritis, lifestyle changes may not be sufficient. Arthritis can wear down the joint over time and make the pain more severe.

Most cases of TMJD warrant changes in lifestyle habits, most likely combined with medications to relieve any pain and discomfort. Aggressive treatments are sometimes required. Talk to your doctor about your options to determine what treatment is correct for you.


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