What is TMJ?
The acronym TMJ stands for two things:
- Your temporomandibular, or jaw joint
- A disorder with that very same joint
Confusing as it seems at first, TMJ is essentially a malfunctioning jaw joint.
Your temporomandibular joint is easy to locate, it’s just in front of the middle of your ear. To locate it, move your fingers along your cheekbones until they are just in front of your ear. Now, open and close your jaw. The movement that you feel is your jaw joint, the point where your lower jaw attaches to your skull.
A TMJ disorder can be painful
When your jaw is out of alignment, your upper and lower teeth meet incorrectly in a “bad bite”. This is what’s known as TMJ or TMJD – temporomandibular joint disorder.
With TMJ, your jaw muscles must work extra hard to do everything they need to do. When they tire, they recruit surrounding muscles – those of the head, face, neck and shoulders. Eventually these muscles fatigue as well, becoming strained and inflamed, putting pressure on the nerves that run through them, and sending pain signals to your brain
If stress is being placed on your jaw and surrounding muscles, you may develop certain symptoms, including:
- Headaches or migraines
- Jaw pain
- Clicking, popping or locking of your jaw
- Tingling in your fingers and back of your hand,
- Pain in your neck or shoulders
- Ear aches, congestion or ringing
- Facial pain
- Poor posture
TMJ treatment options can relieve your pain
In many cases TMJ can be treated. The first step is an accurate diagnosis. Most commonly, TMJ is diagnosed by a dentist or a physician. The exam often starts with an assessment of your face and jaw for:
- pain or tenderness
- noises made by the joint when it moves
- the alignment of your bite
- how far you can open your mouth
X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, K7 diagnostics or TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) are tools that medical health practitioners may chose to help with the diagnosis. They allow the dentist or physician or dentist see the surrounding bones, teeth and soft tissues in greater detail to determine if they have a role to play in the disorder.
Once the cause of your TMJ problem has been uncovered, the next step is finding a treatment.
TMJ treatment options include:
- physiotherapy or massage to relax the jaw muscles
- an orthotic to help your jaw move back into proper alignment
- dental restorations such as crowns, veneers or dental bonding to repair damaged teeth
- dental bridges or implants to replace missing teeth
- orthodontics to widen a too narrow jaw or straighten crooked teeth