What is a TMJ Disorder?
Your Guide to TMJ Disorders
Maybe you’re ready to find some relief from TMJ pain. But, you’re not sure where to start or what to do. You’ve talked to your doctor already. They say it’s stress. But you’re sure there’s something more going on. You just need help understanding your jaw joint pain better.
At TMJ Health, we understand TMJ disorders. As jaw joint experts, we know knowledge is the key to finding freedom from TMJ pain. We make sure you have all the information you need so you can be confident moving forward with treatment.
Below we have our comprehensive guide to TMJ disorders. By reading this guide you will learn:
- What is a TMJ Disorder?
- What Are the Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder?
- What Causes TMJ Disorders?
- How Are TMJ Disorders Diagnosed?
- How Do We Treat TMJ Disorders?
What is a TMJ Disorder?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. The TMJ is the joint that connects your jawbone to your skull. You have one on both sides of your face. Your jaw joint acts as a hinge that allows you to open and close your mouth and move your jaw from side to side.
The TMJ is like every other joint in your body. It has ligaments, muscles, and tendons. The TMJ also has a disc that contains synovial fluid, which is crucial for the proper function of the jaw joint. A damaged or misaligned jaw joint can cause pain. This is what’s known as a TMJ disorder.
What Are the Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorders come with a variety of symptoms including:
- Jaw joint pain
- Ear pain
- Headaches and migraines
You may also notice other symptoms such as jaw lock or pain in the neck and shoulders. Since many of these symptoms can be seen in other conditions it’s important to get a diagnosis from a doctor who understands how the jaw joint works.
What Are the Causes of TMJ Disorders?
The TMJ works like the other joints in your body. It’s a system. And if any part of this system is damaged, the other parts can begin to break down as well. Muscles can become overworked, the synovial disc can become displaced. Arthritis can cause the tissues in the joint to wear out. Injuries to the face are another common cause of TMJ disorders.
Some risk factors for developing TMJ disorders include:
- Underdeveloped jaws
- Misaligned bite
Understanding how TMJ disorders happen can help you get a better understanding of your condition.
How Do We Diagnose TMJ Disorders?
For a long time, there wasn’t a lot of research about TMJ disorders. It’s been difficult for physicians to diagnose them. However, all of that is starting to change. We now know more about the jaw joint than ever before. And that means we can provide a more accurate diagnosis and better treatment options.
Your jaw joint is a very complex system. But it is in fact a joint. Just like the other joints in your body. So when a physician is diagnosing TMJ pain they should be looking at it like a joint.
Treatment Options for TMJ Disorders
The treatment for a TMJ disorder depends on what’s causing it. Doctors need to take enough time to evaluate your jaw joint before offering treatment options. Rushing through a diagnosis leads to treatments that don’t work. The goal should always be treating the underlying condition, not just managing symptoms.
Treatment for TMJ Disorders
If you are experiencing mild TMJ pain you need to treat it early. Early treatment is key to preventing further damage. You can treat mild TMJ disorders with rest, support, and inflammation management. If these treatments don’t work then you will probably need to consider surgery.
Keep in mind, your jaw joint is similar to the other joints in the body. When you hurt your knee or your hip, your doctor will usually tell you to stay off of it for a while to let it heal. Your TMJ is no different. If your TMJ is damaged in any way, it’s important to rest it. We usually recommend going on a soft diet for a while to see if that helps your pain at all.
Damaged joints also need support. If you have jaw joint pain you’ll probably need a TMJ mouth guard. TMJ mouth guards support the jaw joint just like a brace does for your knee. It helps absorb pressure which reduces pain and prevents further damage.
Pain and Inflammation Management
An anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, can also be very helpful in the management of jaw joint pain. Heat and/or ice are other options to help reduce inflammation and stress on the jaw.
Surgical Treatment for TMJ Disorders
In more severe cases, the only lasting treatment for a TMJ disorder is surgery. TMJ surgery is necessary when there is a problem with the synovial disc. You’ll need surgery if the disc is displaced or needs to be repaired. Other times the joint needs to be flushed.
Depending on your particular case, your surgeon may recommend one or a combination of the following:
- Open joint surgery
Understanding TMJ Disorders
The More You Know
Knowledge is the key to treating TMJ disorders. The more you know about your jaw joint pain, the easier it will be to talk to your doctor about it. And that’s why we’re here. We want to help you understand TMJ disorders, what causes them, and how to treat them. We can’t treat your jaw pain ourselves, but we can give you everything you need to find relief from TMJ disorders.
TMJ disorders – Symptoms and causes. (2018, December 28). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/symptoms-causes/syc-20350941
Burke, D. (2019, March 14). Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/tmj-disorders
Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD). (2021, August 8). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/temporomandibular-disorder-tmd
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