The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a small joint located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw are joined (on either side). It allows the lower jaw to move and operate.
The disorders of the TMJ are frequent and present with a variety of symptoms. Patients may complain of earache, headache and reduced mouth opening. They may even complain about clicking sounds of articulation and pain during speech and chewing.
If these symptoms occur, consult an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon who can diagnose exactly what the problem is. Proper diagnosis is important because it leads to the right treatment. To this end, some imaging examinations and further referral to other dental or medical specialties may be necessary.
What causes TMJ malfunction?
Arthritis is one of the causes for the symptom of TMJDisorders. It can result from an injury or a tooth clenching during sleep. Another common cause is the displacement of the disc located between the articular surfaces. A dislocated disk can produce sounds (such as “clicks” and “pops”), restrict jaw movements and cause pain when the patient opens the mouth.
There are still cases, such as trauma or rheumatoid arthritis, in which the parts of the joint are fused to prevent it from moving normally (ankylosis).
Stress and anxiety can cause jaw muscle soreness and cause symptoms similar to those of the TMJ. Patients with muscular problems in the jaws often or grindig their teeth at night and cause painful muscle spasms and difficulty in opening joints. Often these two problems (muscle spasms and TMJ dysfunction) are combined. For this reason, the diagnosis of temporomandibular disorders can be complicated and may require different diagnostic procedures.
Treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders can start from a conservative dental and medical treatment and can lead to complicated surgery. Treatment depends on the diagnosis and may include anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants, convergent splints and antistress tips.
In general, if conservative treatment is not successful or there is an apparent damage to the joint, surgical treatment is indicated. This may include arthroscopy or open surgery.