TMJ is the acronym for temporomandibular joint, which connects your lower jaw (the mandible) to your skull at the temporal bone.
This joint controls many jaw functions, like chewing. If the chewing muscles or the joint itself are causing you pain you may have temporamandibular disorder, or TMD. This can be caused by the muscles used to chew or by structural issues with the joint itself. There are many causes, including and sometimes in combination with stress, continual clenching of the jaw muscles, teeth grinding, disease or joint structural problems. Depending on what is causing the discomfort will determine the course of treatment. Many muscular issues such as clenching and grinding can be treated with mouth guards. Sometimes if it is the joint itself that is having problems, a specialist with specific TMD training may be recommended. Many times, if there is popping or cracking associated with the jaw joint, if those sounds are not accompanied with pain/sensitivity then generally it isn’t recommended to have treatment.
Some of the symptoms of TMD are:
- Pain when opening or closing mouth
- Trouble chewing
- Jaw becoming stuck open or shut
- Headaches or ear pain
- Clicking or popping sounds when opening your mouth
- Teeth Grinding
Many of these symptoms can often be associated with other health problems, so only a medical professional can tell you if it is due to TMD. Teeth grinding is an especially problematic symptom because it can lead to further problems. Prolonged teeth grinding, or bruxism, can cause enamel to wear off teeth and expose dentin. This material is softer than enamel and more susceptible to decay. Sensitivity to hot or cold food or drink may also develop from excessive teeth grinding.