At the Surgical Arts Centre, we take special care to fully evaluate your TMJ pain so that we can find a solution that is right you – whether that is surgery, orthodontics, or lifestyle changes.
- Dr. Taylor -
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your jawbone to your temporal bone – part of your skull. There are two TMJs: one on each side of your head. Each TMJ consists of a variety of components, including a “ball and socket” joint, cushioning cartilage, and a number of ligaments.
The two TMJ joints are truly unique: they execute a hinge action like the knee, a sliding action,like the wrist, and a rotating action like the hip. Because the joints engage in such diverse movements, and because the two joints are connected to each other by the jaw bone, TMJs are susceptible to a variety of disorders and issues that can cause pain and loss of function.
Many people refer to TMJ pain or TMJ disorders simply as “TMJ.”
What are TMJ disorders?
The jaw joint is a complex mechanism that can be affected by a number of factors – and sometimes by multiple factors. These can cause chronic pain and dysfunction in the jaw and surrounding areas.
Most TMJ pain and dysfunction issues are occasional and temporary – they resolve themselves with little more than time and rest. However, some people suffer from chronic, long-term TMJ problems that make it difficult to chew, talk, or live comfortably.
Generally, TMJ disorders are broken into three broad categories:
- Jaw muscle pain.
- A problem with the actual function of the joint.
- Arthritis, which causes inflammation and degeneration of the joint.
It is important to note that some patients suffer from more than one of the above disorders
What are the symptoms of TMJ disorders?
The signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may occur on one or both sides of your jaw:
- Pain in the jaw, face, neck, shoulders, or ear, especially while using your jaw.
- Jaw stiffness.
- Swelling or tenderness in the face.
- An inability to fully open your mouth.
- A feeling of tiredness or fatigue in your face and jaw.
- A noticeable change in your bite or how your upper and lower teeth meet.
- Popping, clicking, or grating sounds when opening or closing your jaw – even if painless.
- Locking of the jaw.
- Ear aches, ringing in the ears, and hearing problems.
What are the causes of TMJ pain?
There are a wide range of causes for TMJ pain; in fact, doctors are still researching TMJ dysfunction to better understand it. In many of the patients that we treat, more than one factor is responsible for TMJ pain.
- Jaw trauma (such as from an accident, sports injury, assault, fall, or car crash).
- Jaw dislocation.
- An improper bite.
- Clenching or grinding your teeth (caused by nervous habits, stress, or anxiety).
- Psychological issues, such as stress or anxiety, that cause muscle tension.
- Neuromuscular imbalances.
- Inflammatory and connective tissue disease.
- Growth and developmental problems.
Some research suggests that TMJ disorders could have a genetic component or that female hormones could play a role in TMJ pain, since the majority of sufferers are women.
What are the treatments for chronic TMJ pain?
The treatment for your TMJ pain depends heavily on its cause or causes. Some TMJ pain has simple, non-surgical solutions. In other cases, extensive ongoing therapy may be needed. In still other cases, surgery may lead you to the best outcome. Here are just a few of the common treatments used for TMJ disorders:
- Hot or cold packs.
- Stress reduction and relaxation techniques.
- Psychological counseling and treatment.
- Physical therapy and jaw exercises.
- Nutritional therapy (such as eating soft foods).
- Anti-inflammatory medications.
- Muscle relaxants.
- Dental treatments, such as an occlusal appliances or night guards.
- Surgery (arthroscopic surgery or open-joint surgery).
Is TMJ surgery the right treatment for me?
The best way to know if arthroscopic surgery or open-joint surgery is right for you is to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable doctor. At the Surgical Arts Centre, we will thoroughly evaluate you to discover the causes of your TMJ pain and then recommend a treatment or treatments based on our findings.
In many cases, we believe that trying less invasive solutions first is beneficial to the patient. However, some TMJ issues, such as jaw trauma or derangement, often respond very well to surgery.
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Do you have more questions about tmj disorders? Tell us your story and schedule a consult today.