Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is a misalignment (malocclusion) of the jaw or teeth that may occur as the result of trauma, or due to teeth grinding, poor posture, excessive gum chewing, arthritis or another inflammatory disorder of the musculoskeletal system. Most common in women between the ages of 20-40, it may occur at any time.

Symptoms of TMJ syndrome include jaw tenderness or pain, aching in or around the ear and facial area, discomfort or pain while you chew and locking of the jaw, which might make it difficult to open and close the mouth.  You may even experience a grating sensation or a clicking sound when chewing or opening your mouth.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) functions by means of sliding motions and hinge action. Cartilage covers the interacting bones that are also separated by a small disk which absorbs shock. This disk keeps the movements smooth, however, if it moves out of alignment, or if it erodes a TMJ disorder may result.

TMJ disorders can also occur as the result of arthritis, which damages the cartilage, or by impact, such as a blow to the jaw.

Speaking to Your Dentist about TMJ Disorders

If the symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome are persistent, you should speak to your dentist, who should be able to assess the possible causes, and find suitable treatment options.

Your dentist may ask you several questions to find out when the symptoms occurred and whether it coincides with trauma or increased stress. He or she will ask about recent tooth, neck or headaches, and whether you are taking supplements or tablets.

Afterwards, your dentist will assess your jaw, while you open and close your mouth. By pressing on your jaw and areas surrounding your ear, he or she will identify painful areas. Should your dentist suspect problems with your teeth, x-rays will be ordered. In some cases, a CT scan will be required to assess the bones in your jaw, while an MRI will be ordered if the dentist wants to see whether there are problems with the disk.

A variety of treatment options are available to deal with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome, including pain killers, tricyclic antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and sedatives.

Non-pharmaceutical therapies treat the cause of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome, and include counseling (for stress). Physical therapy such as heat, ice and moisture treatment, and exercises for the jaw muscles can be combined with bite guards to train the jaw.

Your dentist may refer you to a TMJ specialist if treatment doesn’t bring relief. Specialists use a range of other procedures, including arthrocentesis, injections, and surgery.

At Holland Landing Dentistry, we have experience in successfully treating temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome.