tmj-dental-blogYour temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jawbone to your skull and acts like a sliding hinge between the two. (It is pronounced as tem-puh-roe-mun-DIB-u-lur). TMJ disorders can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.

The Dental Health Blog looks at TMJ Disorders

The exact cause of a person’s TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine. Your pain may be due to a combination of problems, such as arthritis or jaw injury. Some people who have jaw pain also tend to clench or grind their teeth, but many people habitually clench their teeth and never develop TMJ disorders.

In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ syndrome can be alleviated with self-managed care or nonsurgical treatments. Severe TMJ disorders may require surgical repair.

Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:

  • Pain or tenderness of your jaw
  • Aching pain in and around your ear
  • Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing
  • Aching facial pain
  • Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth

TMJ syndrome can also cause a clicking sound or grating sensation when you open your mouth or chew. However, if there’s no pain or limitation of movement associated with your jaw clicking, you probably don’t need treatment for a TMJ disorder. (Info & photo credit: MayoClinic.org)

When to seek help for TMJ syndrome

You should seek the attention of a medical professional if you have persistent pain or tenderness in your jaw, or if you can’t open or close your jaw completely. Your doctor, your dentist, or a TMJ specialist can discuss possible causes and treatments of your particular problem.

The temporomandibular joint is fairly unique, combining a hinge action with sliding motions. The parts of the bones that interact in the joint are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk, which normally keeps the movement smooth.

Painful TMJ disorders can occur if:

  • The disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment
  • The joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis
  • The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact
  • In many cases, however, the cause of TMJ disorders isn’t clear.

TMJ syndrome most commonly occurs in women aged 20 to 40, but may occur at any age, and also may occur in men of a similar age.

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