Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder can have several causes and many different consequences. The joint of the jaw is unique and, unlike any other joint in the body, moves on one plane. The socket accommodates any reasonable opening of the mouth. However, when the mouth is opened very wide, the joint moves out of the socket to accommodate the large movement. This makes the joint prone to injury.
In most cases TMJ problems occur when the lower jaw is not properly aligned with the upper jaw and the cartilage that cushions the bones that make up the joint has been damaged. The bones grind against each other during jaw movements and the joint becomes painful and chewing becomes difficult. Among the signs of TMJ disorder are varying degrees of pain in the joint (which is felt in front of the ear), difficulty in opening or closing the mouth fully, popping or click sounds when chewing, and severe muscle and/or nerve pain that can radiate to eyes, cheeks and sinus.
Since the symptoms are often difficult to pinpoint and may be caused by other conditions, it is best to consult a dentist as soon as the possibility of TMJ disorder becomes apparent and also to have the jaw movement checked during routine dental checkups. While TMJ disorders are primarily found among women between the ages of 20 and 40 (where about 75% of the cases occur), anyone with jaw or facial pain or discomfort should be checked.
While most TMJ disorders can be remedied relatively quickly, in some cases a long course of treatment may be required. Let us do an assessment and we can provide you with the best guidance.