What is TMJ? – Dental Treatment Options
Definition of TMJ
The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ), also referred to as the jaw joint, is composed of the temporal bone (roof of the TMJ), the mandible or lower jaw (base of the TMJ), a soft tissue cartilage base between the two bones (meniscus or disc). Essentially the TMJ is associated muscles, connective tissue and elastic fibers.
If the TMJ is not functioning correctly, the meniscus is out from between the two bones of the joint. This can cause several issues such as- clicking upon opening the jaw, restricted opening of the jaw, shifting of the jaw and the teeth, headaches, ear fullness and/or ringing. Resulting pain is from nerve impingement by the structures of the TMJ or inflammation and/or spasm of the muscle.
What Causes TMJ?
More than 15% of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain, such as jaw pain, headaches or earaches, according to the American Dental Association. TMD (Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) occur when your TMs aren’t working properly. These disorders are often mistakenly called “TMJ” because they involve your temporomandibular joints. TMD is the cause of pain for many of these sufferers, and more frequently for women than men. Most commonly occurring in people ages 20 to 40, TMD pain and discomfort might be temporary but it can last for years.
Although the exact cause of TMD remains unclear, dentists believe that the symptoms stem from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself. Problems with your TM joints can be attributed to:
► Grinding or clenching your teeth
► Stress, if it provokes you to tighten your facial muscles or jaw
► Dislocating the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket
► Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TM joints
► Injury to your jaw, head or neck
Manual therapies (TMJ exercises), splints to reduce stress in the TMJ, or therapeutic injections into the TMJ may all be necessary to reduce pain and achieve normal function.
To restore complete TMJ function, proper restoration of the tooth and/or tooth alignment may be necessary to regain normal jaw alignment.
Jaw pain and jaw dysfunction (restricted opening) can be associated with many conditions but function of the TMJ should always be taken into consideration when this occurs.