TMJ Disorders

Do you ever get a dull aching pain in your jaw joint? Is it uncomfortable to open your mouth? Does your jaw ever click or pop?



You could be suffering from a TMJ disorder.

TMJ stands for TemporoMandibular Joint - that's a bit of a mouthful so you can just call it the jaw joint. You have two TMJs, one each side of your face, just below your ears. The joints control biting, chewing and swallowing food, for speaking and for making facial expressions.

TMJ Diseases/Disorders: (TMD)
Temporomandibular joint diseases and disorders are typified by pain in the jaw and surrounding tissues, as well as limitations in jaw movements. Injury and conditions that routinely affect other joints in the body may also affect the temporomandibular joint.

What Causes TMJ Disorders:
Although not all causes are known, some possible causes or contributing factors are injuries to the jaw area, various forms of Arthritis, dental procedures, genetics, hormones, low-level infections, auto-immune diseases, stretching of the jaw, and clenching or grinding of the teeth.

At present, there is universal standard test to correctly identify all TMJ conditions. Tests that are recommended are often intended to rule out other possible medical conditions. A diagnosis of TMJ diseases and disorders may be made only after every other possibility has been considered and eliminated.

Some TMJ problems improve on their own, without treatment, within weeks or months with simple home therapy. Unfortunately, for some, symptoms worsen over time and develop into long-term, persistent and debilitating pain. Most people with TMJ problems have relatively mild or periodic symptoms.

Common Symptoms:
Pain is the most common symptom. TMJ pain is often described as a dull aching pain in the jaw joint and nearby areas, including the ear, which comes and goes. Some people, however, report no pain, but still have problems using their jaws. Other symptoms can include:
 

  • Being unable to open the mouth comfortably
  • A bite that feels uncomfortable or "off"
  • Swelling on the side of the face
  • Clicking, popping or grating sounds in the jaw joint
  • Locking of the jaw when attempting to open the mouth
  • Headaches
  • Neck, shoulder and back pain
  • muffled hearing, ear pain, ringing in the ears

Additional symptoms may include dizziness and vision problems.

Keep in mind that occasional discomfort in the jaw joint or chewing muscles is common, and is not always a cause for concern. Many people with certain TMJ problems get better without treatment. Often the problem goes away on its own in several weeks to months. However, if the pain is severe and lasts more than a few weeks, see your healthcare provider.

Treatment:
Because most common jaw joint and muscle problems can be temporary, lasting only weeks or months when treated promptly by a professional. Dr. Goodlin, Dr. Shasha and the team at Smiles Dental in Aurora have treated thousands of these cases using a protocol consisting of several treatment modalities.

  • Bite Splint
  • eating soft foods,
  • applying ice for first 48 hours
  • moist heat after 48 hours
  • avoiding extreme opening jaw (such as wide yawning, loud singing)
  • no gum chewing
  • Biofeedback to be aware of grinding and clenching
  • Stress release – hot bath before bedtime, medication as required.