The temporomandibular joint or TMJ connects or links the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull, present in front of each ear. It provides for the movement of the jaw - up-down motion, side-to-side motion, speaking, chewing, and yawning.
Problems inflicting the jaws, facial muscles, and nerves due to an injury to the temporomandibular joint or TMJ are called temporomandibular disorders or TMD.
What are the symptoms of TMJ syndrome?
Doctors diagnose TMJ disorders based on a broad range of symptoms, including the following:
- Pain in the jaw joint that causes tenderness in the face, eyes, forehead, ears, and neck.
- Lockjaw or locking of the jaw after widely moving it while yawning, making it difficult to open and close the mouth.
- Blurred vision accompanied by dizziness or vertigo.
- Shoulder pain, backache, and neck pain.
- Pain at the base of the tongue.
- Pain, swelling, or a lump in the temple area.
- Popping, grinding. or clicking of the jaw while talking, chewing, or simply moving the jaw.
- Ringing, buzzing or popping sounds in the ears.
- Pain and grating sensation while chewing.
- Stiff or tight jaw and neck muscles.
- Muscle spasms affecting the jaw.
- Headaches or migraines.
What causes TMJ syndrome?
TMJ connects or links the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. The temporal bones are covered with cartilage and separated by a shock-absorbing disk, which provides for the smooth movement of the jaw while chewing, talking, and more. TMJ syndrome is caused due to any of the following reasons:
- Degeneration or misalignment of the shock-absorbing disk.
- Damage to the cartilage covering the temporal bones due to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
- Injury or trauma to the teeth or jaw.
- Long-term clenching and grinding of teeth (Bruxism).
- Connective tissue diseases that impact the TMJ.
- Poor posture, which stresses the neck and upper back muscles.
- Excessive gum chewing.
- Other causes include genetic, hormonal, or environmental impacts.
How is TMJ syndrome treated?
There are several treatment options available for treating TMJ syndrome.
1. Self-care and lifestyle changes
In most cases, TMJ syndrome can be successfully treated with self-care and lifestyle changes. Simple practices which reduce the jaw movement like avoiding chewing gums, consuming only soft foods, refraining from clenching and grinding treat mild-to-moderate symptoms of TMJ syndrome. Committing to daily gentle exercises such as stretching the jaw slightly, massaging the affected muscles also help in relieving the symptoms.
Based on the severity of the disorder, the dentist recommends the best-suited exercises and lifestyle changes.
2. Treating existing conditions
Pre-existing conditions also contribute to the development of TMJ syndrome. In the case of involuntary clenching and grinding of teeth or Bruxism, dentists recommend wearing lab night guards to ease the symptoms and treat the TMJ disorder. When TMJ syndrome is caused by degenerative conditions, like osteoarthritis, steroid injections are used to ease the symptoms.
Certain medicines like pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants help relieve the pain associated with TMJ disorders. These medicines are prescribed by the dentist based on the severity of the symptoms.
Arthrocentesis involves the insertion of fine needles into the temporomandibular joint. The needles introduce fluids into the joint to irrigate it and remove the debris and any inflammatory by-products that cause swelling.
5. TMJ arthroscopy surgery
TMJ arthroscopy surgery is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to treat TMJ syndrome. A thin tube is inserted into the TMJ space. Then, an arthroscope is used to look inside the TMJ to identify the cause of the disorder. Finally, surgical procedures are carried out to ease out the symptoms by removing scar tissue, smoothing the jaw bone and repositioning the shock-absorbing disc.
6. Modified condylotomy
Modified condylotomy is another surgical procedure used to treat TMJ syndrome. The procedure addresses the disorder indirectly, by treating the mandible instead of the TMJ. It increases joint space by allowing the mandibular condyle to move inferiorly with respect to both the shock-absorbing disc and eminence. It eliminates pain and locking of the jaw.
7. Open-joint surgery
Open-joint surgery is used to treat severe forms of TMJ disorders, like when the shock- absorbing disc eroded too much or the TMJ has been broken. It is performed to repair, reposition, replace, or remove parts in the TMJ. An incision is made to expose the TMJ, and surgical procedures are carried out to repair, reposition, or replace the shock-absorbing disc.
At Murray Dental Care of Cupertino, our entire team of dentists and hygienists is committed to providing supreme quality dental care to our patients and their families. If you are inclined towards taking the first steps to improve your dental health and hygiene, call us at (408) 253-5277 to book an appointment.