What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)?

TMJD, or temporomandibular joint disorder, means that the hinge connecting the upper and lower jaw is not working properly. This hinge is one of the most complex joints in the body, responsible for moving the lower jaw down, forward, backward and side-to-side. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working as it should is called TMJD. Your jaw may pop, click or even "getting stuck" for a moment. The exact cause of this misalignment is often impossible to determine.

What are the symptoms of TMJD?

TMJD has many signs and symptoms. It is often hard to know for sure if you have TMJD, because one or all of these symptoms can also be present with other problems. Your dentist can help make a proper diagnosis by taking a complete medical and dental history, conducting a clinical examination and taking appropriate X-rays.

Some of the most common TMJD symptoms include:

  • Headaches, often mimicking migraines; earaches, and pain and pressure behind the eyes
  • A clicking or popping sound when you open or close your mouth
  • Pain brought on by yawning, opening the mouth widely or chewing
  • Jaws that "get stuck," lock or “go out”
  • Tenderness of the jaw muscles
  • A sudden change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together.

How is TMJD treated?

While there is no single cure for TMJD, there are different treatments you can follow that may reduce your symptoms dramatically. Your dentist may recommend one or more of the following:

  • Trying to eliminate muscle spasm and pain by applying moist heat or taking medication such as muscle relaxants, aspirin or other over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Reducing the harmful effects of clenching and grinding by wearing an appliance, sometimes called a bite plate or splint. Custom-made to fit your mouth, the appliance slips over the upper teeth and keeps them from grinding against the lower teeth.
  • Learning relaxation techniques to help control muscle tension in the jaw. Your dentist may suggest you seek training or counselling to help eliminate stress.
  • When the jaw joints are affected and other treatments have been unsuccessful, jaw joint surgery may be recommended.
hinges
TMJ occurs when the complex joint that "hinges" your upper and lower jaw does not work well.