TMJ stands for Temporal Mandibular Joint and is composed of two main bones which include the Temporal bone of the skull and the mandibular bone which is your lower jaw. There is also a piece of cartilage known as the disk which separates these bones and acts as a cushion between them when you open and closes your mouth. This is the only joint in the body that is designed to dislocate when in use such as chewing, talking, and breathing. If you place your finger against the forward section of your ear, you can feel this joint in action as you open and close on your back teeth. A healthy TMJ does not make any noises, sounds, or pain when opening and closing. If any of these occur, the TMJ is considered to have Temporomandibular Disorder(TMD).
Symptoms of TMD commonly include migraines in a majority of cases, but can also include:
- Jaw Pain/Tired Jaw Muscles
- Dizziness/Loss of Balance
- Ringing in Ears
- Ear Stuffiness
- Loss of Hearing
- Neck Pain
- Facial Pain
- Change in Bite
- Jaw Locking/Catching
- Jaw Clicking/Popping
TMJ is also a part of the three main components of the orofacial complex which also includes the muscles of the head and neck. As a result of this headaches, migraines, and neck pain are some of the symptoms of TMJ disorder. TMD can also be present in the other component which is your teeth with symptoms such as fractured or cracked teeth, excessive wear, or even crooked teeth. Usually, when there is a problem with one component, it significantly affects the others as well. If the symptoms are left untreated, they can develop into severe conditions such as arthritis in the TMJ or crepitus (gnashing noise or grinding noise in the joint) where there is bone rubbing on bone due to the perforation in the disc or degenerative joint disease.
In our practice, we understand the root cause of TMJ disorder so we are able to treat TMD instead of just masking the symptoms with a mouthpiece or splint therapy alone, which will only hide the symptoms and not treat the main cause. In these instances, the TMD symptoms will eventually return or become worse than before treatment.
Proper conservative treatment is successful in almost all cases and is the preferred method of treatment. Surgery is rarely a good option and has a very poor record of being a long-term solution.