The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) plays a critical role in overall dental health. The joint, located on each side of the jaw, is what connects the jaw bone to the skull and allows you to open and close your mouth. It is one of the most complex joints in the human body. The bones that interact with the temporomandibular joint are covered with cartilage, and are separated by a disc. In a healthy joint, this disc absorbs the shock during movement and allows the jaw to open, close, and move side to side smoothly.
When the joint fails to work properly, the resulting condition is known as TMJ disorder.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
Common issues that can cause TMJ disorder include:
- The disc erodes
- The disc moves out of its proper alignment
- The joint’s cartilage is damaged (by arthritis, injury, etc.)
Night grinding or teeth clenching, known as bruxism, can also exacerbate TMJ disorder by putting additional stress on the jaw muscles.
In some cases, the exact cause of TMJ disorder is not known.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
TMJ disorder can include any of the following symptoms:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw
- Tightness/stiffness in the muscles of the temporomandibular joint
- Aching facial pain, especially around the cheeks and ears
- Pain when chewing
- A clicking noise when opening or closing your mouth
- Feeling the jaw pop when opening or closing your mouth
- Locking of the jaw joint
- Difficulty opening your mouth all the way
- A change in the way your top and bottom teeth align when your jaw is closed
Fortunately, we can help! If you are experiencing persistent pain or other symptoms of TMJ disorder, contact us to schedule an appointment. With a full evaluation, we can discover whether you suffer from TMJ disorder and discuss potential treatment options.