The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is the small joint located directly in front of the ear. This joint allows for movement of the lower jaw during opening and closing. TMJ disorders, dysfunction, and TMD are terms that describe a malfunction or problem related to this joint and its associated components, mainly its muscles and ligaments.
When functioning correctly, you can open and close your mouth during chewing, speaking, and swallowing without pain or discomfort. When an abnormality occurs in this system, it may result in difficulty in opening, clicking, popping or grating noises, and in many cases moderate to severe pain, known as a TMJ disorder.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
Patients who suffer from TMJ disorders commonly exhibit the below listed symptoms. The presence of one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily confirm the diagnosis of a TMJ disorder, however, the diagnosis of TMJ would be confirmed upon a clinical and radiographic examination.
- Discomfort of the facial region generally above and in front of the ear
- Noise in the jaw joint on opening and closing that is described as a popping, clicking, or grating sound
- Frequent headaches and neck aches
- Locking of the jaw and or painful opening and closing
- Habits such as grinding or clenching of the teeth
- A history of direct trauma of the chin or jaw joint region
Both surgical and non-surgical treatments can be appropriate for TMJ dysfunction. They may include jaw exercises, cold or hot pack applications, medications, electrical stimulation, biofeedback, and others. The use of a night guard is in many cases extremely effective in reducing pain and restoring normal function with the absence of pain.
Surgery in our office is only considered in those cases where the diagnosis indicates a specific problem involving the joint. Surgical procedures are performed in much the same way as in other joints of the body. In extreme joint deterioration cases, joint replacement surgery may be necessary.