(temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems
related to your complex jaw joint. They are often characterized by
pain, joint noise, and/or limited range of motion. These symptoms
occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles (muscles
of mastication) do not work together correctly. It is important to
note that joint noise is not always indicative of a TMJ disorder
and quite frequently requires no treatment at all.
No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and
treatment can take time before improvements are manifest.
Trouble with Your Jaw?
TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or
grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your
jaw joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or
disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or
stretch or tear the muscle ligaments.
As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions
as the "cushion" of the jaw joint, can slip out of position.
Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite,
pain, clicking or grating noise when you open your mouth or trouble
opening your mouth wide.
Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?
- Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
- Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
- Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
- Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
- Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
- Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open
- Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat or
- Have you ever injured your neck, head or jaws?
- Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other
- Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
- Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
- Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
- Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?
The more times you answered "yes," the more likely it is that
you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help
you understand how they are treated.
There are various treatment options that can improve the harmony
and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis
of TMJ disorder, your surgeon will determine the proper course of
treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best
with a team approach of self-care joined with professional care.
For many TMJ disorders surgical intervention is often unnecessary
and medical management along with appropriate physical therapy will
resolve symptoms and restore function.
What about bite correction or surgery?
If your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit
together, you may need treatment such as bite adjustment
(equilibration), orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction,
or restorative dental work. Surgical options such as arthroscopy
and open joint repair restructuring are sometimes needed but are
reserved for severe cases.