The TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, is the joint on either side of the jaw that enables the jaw to open, close, move from side to side and move forwards. Our temporomandibular joints are subject to a disorder known as TMJ disorder (or TMJ for short), which can affect just one or both joints.
What are the symptoms of TMJ?
The most common symptoms of TMJ disorder include limited jaw movement, inability to open the mouth or difficulty in doing so, “lock” jaw, noises such as clicking or grating coming from the joints, toothache or teeth sensitivity, difficulty chewing or discomfort when doing so, jaw pain, or pain in the muscles associated with jaw movement.
What is the cause?
The exact cause of TMJ disorder is not always identifiable. Some suggested factors include clenching or grinding of the teeth (also known as bruxism), mental stress, injuries to the jaw joints, and conditions such as arthritis.
Treatments for TMJ disorder
Treatments are available to relieve the most common symptoms and restore function. Once a diagnosis has been made by your health professional, there are many possible treatment options to consider, and the best way to treat TMJ disorders may be one or a combination of the following.
Occlusal splint therapy This involves a custom-made guard, or splint, to fit your upper or lower teeth. It is usually worn at night. This treatment is intended not only to alleviate your symptoms but also to protect your teeth from further damage if you are prone to clenching and grinding.
Physiotherapy This can be used to address muscular discomfort associated with TMJ disorders, and your clinician may suggest exercises designed to increase strength and ease movement.
Other conservative treatments that may be suggested include placing warm or cold packs in areas that are tender, modifying your diet (avoid eating hard or chewy foods), managing stress and using pain-relief and/or anti-inflammatory medications.
In some instances where the above conservative methods of treatment have been used but symptoms persist, you may be referred to a specialist in TMJ disorders; and in rare cases surgery may be performed by an oral & maxillofacial surgeon if appropriate.