What is TMJ Disorder?
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction syndrome, commonly known as TMJ disorder or TMD, refers to a variety of problematic and often painful jaw joint malfunctions. TMJ disorders affect a broad spectrum of the population and can present many different symptoms. Diagnosing the root cause of your TMJ disorder is critical to delivering effective treatment. Our dentist, Jeff Blackburn, DDS, is experienced in revealing the underlying issues that cause TMD so that he can provide his patients with much needed relief. If you are experiencing jaw pain or other symptoms of TMJ disorder, we encourage you to contact our practice to schedule an appointment with our skilled dentist.
Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction
The temporomandibular joint is an important and complex point of articulation. When it is not functioning properly because of a structural disruption involving muscle, cartilage, bone, and/or soft tissue, the result can be a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Pain near the temples and/or ears
- Locking jaw
- Sore or stiff jaw musculature
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty chewing and opening the mouth
- Grinding, clicking, or popping sounds coming from the jaw
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
There are many root causes for these symptoms that involve the temporomandibular joint, including:
- Teeth grinding and clenching
- Jaw injury or injury to the jaw joint
- Jaw imbalance and/or misalignment
- Overuse or strain of the jaw joint
- Movement of the cartilage disk that cushions the jaw joint
- Injury to the muscles or tendons of the head and neck
What Does the Temporomandibular Joint Do?
The temporomandibular joint is the point of connection between your lower jaw and the rest of your skull. As the mechanism responsible for movement of the jaw, this joint controls hinging actions like opening and closing the mouth, as well as sliding motions that allow the mouth to open wider. As a result, the delicate temporomandibular joints are essential to functions such as chewing, talking, and yawning.
Why Does TMJ Disorder Affect Other Areas of the Body?
The region around the TMJ is comprised of an intricate balance of facial muscles, bones, cartilage, nerves, and blood vessels. When the jaw is functioning properly, a shock-absorbing disc of cartilage above the TMJ keeps movements like chewing and yawning smooth. However, when malfunctions in TMJ function arise due to injuries, prolonged pressure (clenching or grinding teeth), improper biting function, or other factors, fluid motion of the jaw can be disrupted. This forces facial muscles to acclimate and behave in irregular ways, often causing pain and tension to radiate to the head, ears, face, neck, shoulders, and back.
Candidates for TMJ Treatment
Individuals who are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above and have been diagnosed with some degree of temporomandibular joint disorder may be candidates for treatment. To formulate a diagnosis, Dr. Blackburn physically examines the jaw structures and bite, evaluates x-rays of the area, and performs a thorough medical review. Once he arrives at an accurate diagnosis, he determines the most suitable course of individualized treatment. In all cases, those who meet the criteria for TMJ disorder are strongly urged to pursue treatment, as neglecting TMJ problems can cause serious and even permanent damage over time.
Will TMJ Disorder Resolve On Its Own?
As TMJ Disorder is the result of jaw malfunction, symptoms will never resolve on their own without addressing whatever misalignments are occurring within the temporomandibular joint. Like most conditions, the best way to relieve pain and prevent small issues from turning into greater complications is proactive treatment. Dr. Blackburn is well-versed in evaluating mild to complex cases of TMJ Disorder and can suggest the most ideal course of action to treat your TMD symptoms.
Treating TMJ Dysfunction
If your TMD diagnosis makes you a good candidate for the type of treatments Dr. Blackburn offers, he can proceed with developing a personalized plan that will address your unique needs. In some cases, he may create a custom night guard to prevent teeth grinding and clenching as you sleep. Ideally, a night guard relieves excessive pressure placed on the temporomandibular joint and prevents aggressive side to side movement. This type of therapy may also be combined with anti-inflammatory medications and/or muscle relaxants. If you have an improper bite, Dr. Blackburn may perform a bite analysis and explore options for restoring proper occlusion.
For more information about disorders of the temporomandibular joint and the treatment options we offer, please contact our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Blackburn.