TMJ And Jaw Pain
TMJ And Jaw Pain
TMJ And Jaw Pain In Woodbury, NY
Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ, TMD, or TMJD, is a general term covering any disorder causing inflammation of the temporomandibular joint, which connects the skull to the mandible. There are a number of conditions that can cause pain in the jaw joint and the muscles involved in the closing and opening of the jaw. Disorders affecting the temporomandibular joint can affect a person's ability to eat, speak, swallow, chew, and breathe.
The set of TMJ disorders are commonly divided into three general categories, though multiple conditions may be present at once.
Inflammatory joint disease: Arthritis is a disease that causes inflammation of the joints. A number of forms of arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, traumatic arthritis and infectious arthritis may have an effect on the jaw joint. Synovitis is another condition that can bring about TMJ pain where the synovial membrane that lines the joint and lubricates it becomes inflamed.
Myofascial pain: The jaw joint and muscles around it can be affected by myofascial pain. This is a disorder where trigger points and muscle tension, commonly in the neck, back and shoulder areas, cause pain in a localized area and referred pain from another region of the body.
Internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint: Between the mandible and the skull is a disc that acts as a cushion. Displacement or deterioration of the disc can cause pain and inflammation of the joint.
A person suffering from TMJD may experience:
Clicking or popping noise in the jaw
Being unable to open the mouth comfortably
Locking of the jaw when trying to open the mouth
Neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain or headaches
An irregular bite
Swelling of the face around the jaw joint
Ringing in the ears or decreased hearing
Dizziness and vision problems
TMJ disorders are still relatively unexamined area of medicine, and as such, diagnosis and treatment of these conditions can be difficult. There is no standard accepted test for diagnosing TMJD and both the American Dental Association and the American Medical Association have not established the TMJ area as a specialty due to insufficient scientific research.
Still, what is known about TMJD has been used to effectively treat or manage the symptoms of the condition, and ongoing research continues to evolve treatments and broader understanding of the causes and risk factors for TMJD.
Occasional discomfort or pain of the jaw joint or facial muscles is not uncommon and can occur for any number of reasons. Often TMJ pain goes away within days or weeks, but if the problem persists for a month or more, a doctor should be consulted.
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Created in Cosmetic & General Dentistry
If you experience ongoing pain in the area near your ear, your jaw or the muscles on the side of your face, possibly accompanied by a clicking or popping sound or restricted jaw movement, you may be suffering from TMD — an abbreviation for Temporomandibular disorders. Sometimes people incorrectly use the term TMJ to refer to these problems, when in fact TMJ is the abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint — or jaw joint — itself. So while you definitely have a TMJ (two of them in fact), you may or may not have TMD.
TMD, then, describes a group of conditions characterized by pain and dysfunction of the TMJ and/or the muscles surrounding it. It's not always so easy to figure out exactly what's causing these symptoms, but the good news is that most TMD cases resolve themselves with the help of conservative remedies that you can try at home. In fact, it's important to exhaust all such reversible remedies before moving on to anything irreversible, such as bridgework or surgery.
The two TMJs that connect your lower jaw, the mandible, to the temporal bone of the skull on either side, are actually very complex joints that allow movement in three dimensions. The lower jaw and temporal bone fit together as a ball and socket, with a cushioning disk in between. Large pairs of muscles in the cheeks and temples move the lower jaw. Any of these parts — the disk, the muscles or the joint itself — can become the source of a TMD problem. If you are in pain, or are having difficulty opening or closing your jaw, a thorough examination can help pinpoint the problem area; then an appropriate remedy can be recommended.
Causes of TMD
As with any other joint, the TMJ can be subject to orthopedic problems including inflammation, sore muscles, strained tendons and ligaments, and disk problems. TMD is also influenced by genes, gender (women appear to be more prone to it), and age. Physical and psychological stress can also be a factor. In some cases, jaw pain may be related to a more widespread, pain-inducing medical condition such as fibromyalgia (“fibro” – connective tissues; “myo” – muscle; “algia” – pain).
Signs and Symptoms of TMD
Some people with TMD hear a clicking, popping or grating sound coming from the TMJ when opening or closing the mouth. This is usually caused by a shifting of the disk inside the joint. Someone standing next to you might even be able to hear it. Clicking by itself is actually not a significant symptom because one third of all people have jaw joints that click, studies show. However, if the clicking is accompanied by pain or limited jaw function — the jaw getting “stuck” in an open or closed position, for example — this would indicate TMD.
This can be felt in the cheeks (masseter muscles) and temples (temporalis muscles), where the two big pairs of jaw-closing muscles are located. If you feel soreness and stiffness upon waking up in the morning, it's often related to habits such as clenching and/or grinding the teeth at night. If you have this type of nocturnal habit, a custom-made nightguard should be very helpful in decreasing the force applied to your teeth, which will in turn allow your muscles to relax and relieve pressure on your jaw joints. Other self-care remedies are discussed below (please see Relieving the Pain).
Pain that's actually coming from one or both jaw joints technically would be described as arthritis (“arth” – joint; “itis” – inflammation) of the TMJ. Radiographs (x-ray pictures) show that some people have arthritic-looking TMJs but no symptoms of pain or dysfunction; others have significant symptoms of pain and dysfunction but their joints look normal on radiographs. There is no cure for arthritis anywhere in the body, but medication can sometimes help relieve arthritic symptoms.
Relieving the Pain
Once you have been examined, a strategy for treating your condition and managing your pain can be developed. Sometimes a temporary change to a softer diet can reduce stress on the muscles and joints. Ice and/or moist heat can help relieve soreness and inflammation. Muscles in spasm can also be helped with gentle stretching exercises. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and muscle relaxants can also provide relief.
Other Treatment Options
Severe TMD cases may require more complex forms of treatment, which might include orthodontics, dental restorations like bridgework, or minor procedures inside the joint such as cortisone injections or lavage (flushing) of the joint. It's rare for major surgery ever to be necessary in a case of TMD. Again, it's important to try the wide range of conservative, reversible treatments available, and give them enough time to work as they almost always prove effective. The first step is an examination at the dental office. To learn more about available treatment options.