A TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint is like a hinge that connects the temporal bones of your skull to your jaw (mandible). The Temporomandibular Joint allows your jaw to move side to side, up and down while different mouth activities such as yawning, chewing, and talking.
TMJ comprises of blood vessels, bones, nerves, and muscles. There are two TMJs on each side of the face. The tissue that is involved in chewing or mastication allows the up and down movement of the jaw bone, which is directly controlled by the TMJ. The TMJ also has two other types of changes, hinge action and rotation.
If you were to place your fingers right in front of your ears and then open the jaws (mouth), you could feel the joint moving. When the mouth is opened, the rounded end of the condyles (lower jaw) glide along the temporal bone. The condyles eventually slide back to the previous state when the mouth is closed.
To keep the motion smooth, there is disk cartilage between the temporal bone and condyle. The function of the disk is to absorb the shock to the TMJ from any movement.
TMJ is also used as a reference term for most of the issues related to the jaw, but in this context, it is being used to define TMD.
When there is a problem with the muscles of your face and jaw, usually resulting in an immense amount of pain, this is called the Temporomandibular Disorder or TMD.
Well, there is still a debate on what exactly cause Temporomandibular Disorder to take place. Some trauma to the joint or jaw might cause it. Continuous hammering on the TMJ can change your teeth alignment. The involvement of muscles can cause membrane inflammation, which surrounds the joint.
Certain health-related conditions can lead to TMD, some of which include:
TMD symptoms mostly depend on the cause and severity of your overall health condition. One of the most common symptoms of the TMD is a pain in the jaw or the muscles around the jaw. Other common symptoms may include:
Popping and clicking sound from the TMJ – These kinds of sounds usually mean that the jaw disc is in an abnormal position. Sometimes there is no need for immediate treatment if there is no pain.
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Pain in neck or face – joints might be overstretched, and it can cause muscle spasm. This pain can take place while you are chewing, talking, or yawning. The pain usually takes place in the joint, in front of the ear, or the pain can shift to some other part of the face.
Pain in the ear is also one of the most significant symptoms in TMD. The pain usually takes place along with hearing loss or ringing in the ear, also known as tinnitus. However, people often think of TMD as ear infection, when, in reality, the problem is not the ear.
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Some individuals suffering from TMJ symptoms might also have an unfortunate history of the dentition or some kind of emotional distress.
TMD can also cause dizziness and headaches, which can potentially lead to vomiting or feeling nauseated.
According to the recent studies carried out by the “National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research” (NIDCR), which is an affiliated institute of the National Health Institute in the United States, risk factors of TMJ can be found in healthy individuals as well. Initial results have shown that TMD syndrome can be developed among individuals with the sensory, genetic, psychological, nervous system, and physiological factors.
It is also worth mentioning that women are more likely to develop TMJ syndrome as compared to men. Furthermore, there might be a few differences in terms of how men and women respond to pain medications and pain.
Age is also a significant factor in the equation. It is reported in many studies that individuals between the age of 18-44 are more likely to develop this symptom. Women, especially during their childbearing years, are more likely to have this syndrome.
Genetics plays a vital role here, as well. Studies suggest that people with a family history of the stress response and gum inflammation are at higher risk of TMJ.
Pain Tolerance – Studies show that people who are sensitive to mild pain are at a higher risk of developing TMJ.
Based on the symptoms mentioned above, TMD can be diagnosed with ease; however, there are other situations such as sinus issues, tooth decay, gum diseases, and arthritis.
To identify the real cause, the dentist will carry out your overall health analysis, ask questions about your medical history, and carry out a thorough examination.
During the diagnosis, your dental surgeon or dentist will check your jaw area for tenderness or pain to see if there is any popping or clicking or some other sound being produced. He will also make sure that your jaw is functioning the way it should.
Other ways to diagnose TMD is through X-Rays and other tests like computer tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). A CT scan is used for showing the bone details, and MRI is used to see if the jaw disc is in the right position.
Some traditional treatment procedures for TMD syndrome include:
Your dentist can prescribe higher NSAID doses to overcome swelling and pain. You might also be suggested muscle relaxers for jaw relaxation from clenching and jaw grinding. Anti-anxiety medication for stress relieve.
Night Guard or Splint
These are mouthpieces made out of plastic, which is fit on top of your low and upper teeth. These mouthpieces minimize the impact of grinding and clenching and improve your mouth bite.
Dental work includes using crowns, braces, and bridges to replace missing teeth and balance the oral health condition.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or TENS is a therapy where low-level electric currents are used for pain relief. It helps relax your facial muscles and jaw joints.
Radio Wave Therapy
Radio waves are used for stimulating the joint to increase the flow of blood and ease the pain
Anesthesia or pain medication is often injected for tendering the facial muscles, which are also called trigger points.
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