The temperomandibular joint (TMJ) is the jaw joint where the mandible connects to the head on the temporal bone. All movements for talking, swallowing, and chewing go through this joint. This is not a place where you want to have problems because it is central to a healthy mouth. Here are a list of some of the signs of TMJ dysfunction.
All of these symptoms are important because they are telling us something.
There are six ligaments on each side that hold the jaw in position. It is not a ball and socket joint. If something is causing one or more of the ligaments to tighten or spasm there are symptoms you can see or feel.
Sometimes the teeth can cause a shift in the ligaments because of the bite being off. The loss of a tooth can cause this. A recently placed filling or crown that is not in proper alignment can cause it. A wisdom tooth out of alignment can be the reason. A bit of detective work may be needed but the cause is usually right there.
Trauma can cause TMJ such as a blow to the jaw or side of the face. Car accidents, bumping into a door, or even sleeping on an uneven surface for a long time can cause it.
Grinding our teeth or clenching our teeth can cause a problem. If you’re sleeping, it’s impossible to tell if you are grinding but a dental exam can show signs of it very easily.
Treatment for acute pain or problems is quite simple. A person has to stop using the joint until it heals. But this is impossible. A person talks, chews, swallows , clenches and grinds all day and all night long. How can the jaw not be used.
When someone stays off their foot they use crutches. When an arm isn’t used they wear a sling. When the jaw isn’t to be used we need to be creative. We use a mouthpiece that fits over the teeth and keeps them from smashing together. There are many designs for mouth guards depending on the diagnosis. They keep the teeth from coming together and allow the ligaments to slowly heal.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) can also be used to relax the muscles and ligaments of the face and speed the healing process. This unit that stimulates healing is the size of a small iPod and has pads that attach to the muscles on the side of the face and work for about twenty minutes per side. It can be used at home or in our office.
These are very specific problems that need personalized diagnosis and attention. If you think you are suffering from this condition, a special examination will be done to evaluate the extent of the problem present. Dr Shannon has been working with TMJ conditions for over twenty years. He has the right solution for your condition.