TMJ stands for temporomandibular disorder or dysfunction: It’s an irritation and inflammation of the temporomandibular joint, which allows your jawbone to move. This joint works as a hinge that opens and closes your mouth. You have one joint on each side of your face to stabilize your jawbone and allow for movement.
The pain comes from the connective tissue around the joint. The temporomandibular joint is protected by a dense fibrous membrane, called a capsule, and an articular disc that works as a cushion between the bones. There are also ligaments and muscle tissue that hold the joint in place and allow it to move. Damage to any one of these components will interfere with the working of your joint, causing pain and reducing mobility.
It’s unclear why some people experience this condition, but it might be a combination of factors including genetics, jaw health, and lifestyle. TMJ is actually an umbrella term that describes many different conditions -- such as arthritis -- that affect your jaw joint. It might also be a complication of trauma or surgery to the joint.
Specific risk factors include:
TMJ may be a symptom of another problem that requires treatment.
Symptoms vary based on the underlying cause of the disorder, but most patients complain of:
You might also notice a grating sensation when you talk or eat. This may indicate mild TMJ that will resolve without treatment, especially if there is no pain.
Treatment methods depend on why your joint is causing problems. For persistent cases, Dr. List will examine the joint and create a comprehensive care plan designed to provide relief. It might include medication to manage pain and reduce inflammation such as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory. Muscle relaxants can often provide temporary relief.
A splint and mouth guard can reduce stress on the joints, especially at night when people often grind their teeth. Combined with physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the joint, the guard may prevent recurrences of TMJ.
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