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TMJ: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

The TMJ—also known as the temporomandibular joint—is one of your body's most complex joints. Here, our dental team in Burnaby explains three major types of disorders affecting the TMJ, their symptoms and your treatment options. 

What is TMJ Disorder?

The TMJ is the joint which connects the temporal bones of your skull—just below your temp and in front of your ear—to your jaw bone. You use this hinge to do everything from moving your jaw around to speaking, eating and breathing.

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) happen when there is an issue with your jaw and facial muscles. You begin to experience pain in the area and if the disorder progresses to a severe state, the joint may eventually be unable to move.

Types of TMJ Disorder

There are actually three main types of TMJ disorders:

Joint Degenerative Disorders

More commonly known as osteoarthritis, this degenerative disorder affects your joint when the cartilage holding the round ends of these bone together begins to wear away or break.

Cartilage absorbs shocks during movement, and allows your bones to glide easily over each other. When the cartilage erodes, pain and swelling will occur, and you may not be able to move your jaw.

Muscle Disorders

This type of disorder, also known as myofascial pain, involves discomfort or pain in all of the muscles controlling the function of your jaw. You may also experience pain in your jaw's muscles, your neck and your shoulders. 

Joint Derangement Disorders

A soft, small disc located between the temporal bone and the condyle makes the opening and closing of the jaw smooth and easy. This disc is also important as it absorbs shocks to the jaw joint that happen during movement.

When someone develops a joint derangement disorder, their jaw's inner workings are unbalanced and disrupted by a dislocated disc or a damaged bone.

This displaced disc causes internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. Currently, there is no surgical solution to this problem.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

With every type of TMJ Disorder, you’ll likely experience pain in your jaw and face. The area around your ears may hurt, and you’ll feel an ache when you open your mouth to eat or talk.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Grinding, clicking or popping sounds when you open your jaw
  • Problems opening, closing or clenching your jaw
  • Additional pain in your neck and/or shoulders
  • Headaches, dizziness or pain in your temples
  • Facial bruising or swelling

When You Should See a Dentist for TMJ Treatment

If at-home remedies which you may have available to you, such as avoiding stress, massaging your jaw or neck muscles, or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs don't work, you should contact your dentist.

They will review your dental history, perform a thorough examination of your bite and jaw, and take x-rays to assess before providing an official diagnosis of TMJ Disorder. The treatment he or she recommends may include:

  • Prescription medications
  • TMJ therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Oral Surgery
  • Dental splints

Your dentist will be able to help you manage your TMJ disorder with a combination of dedicated dental care and at-home remedies.

Are you experiencing dizziness, jaw pain or headaches? We may be able to work with you to develop a customized treatment plan to help with your TMJ disorder. Book an appointment with our Burnaby dentists today.

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