Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome or TMJ joint disorders are medical problems related to the jaw joint. The TMJ connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone) in front of the ear. Certain facial muscles control chewing. Problems in this area can cause head and neck pain, difficulty to open, problems biting, and popping sounds when you bite.
The TMJ is comprised of muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and bones. You have two TMJs, one on each side of your jaw.
If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel the joint and its movement. When you open your mouth, the rounded ends of the lower jaw (condyles) glide along the joint socket of the temporal bone. The condyles slide back to their original position when you close your mouth. To keep this motion smooth, a soft disc of cartilage lies between the condyle and the temporal bone. This disc absorbs shock to the temporomandibular joint from chewing and other movements.
TMJ Syndrome Causes
Bruxism: Teeth grinding as a habit can result in muscle spasm and inflammatory reactions, thus causing the initial pain. Generally, someone who has a habit of grinding his or her teeth will do so mostly during sleep. In some cases, the grinding may be so loud that it disturbs others.
Clenching: Someone who clenches continually bites on things while awake. This might be chewing gum, a pen or pencil, or fingernails. The constant pounding on the joint causes the pain. Stress is often blamed for tension in the jaw, leading to a clenched jaw.
Osteoarthritis: Like other joints in the body, the jaw joint is prone to undergo arthritic changes. These changes are sometimes caused by breakdown of the joint (degeneration) or normal aging. Degenerative joint disease causes a slow progressive loss of cartilage and formation of new bone at the surface of the joint. Immunologic and inflammatory diseases contribute to the progress of the disease.
TMJ Syndrome Symptoms
Pain in the facial muscles and jaw joints may radiate to the neck or shoulders. Joints may be overstretched. You may experience muscle spasms from TMJ syndrome. You may feel pain every time you talk, chew, or yawn. Pain usually appears in the joint itself, in front of the ear, but it may move elsewhere in the skull, face, or jaw.
TMJ syndrome may cause ear pain, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and hearing loss. Sometimes people mistake TMJ pain for an ear problem, such as an ear infection, when the ear is not the problem at all. When the joints move, you may hear sounds, such as clicking, grating, and/or popping. Others may also be able to hear the sounds. Sometimes no treatment is needed if the sounds give you no pain.
You may find yourself favoring one painful side or the other by opening your jaw awkwardly. These changes could be sudden. Your teeth may not fit properly together, and your bite may feel odd. Headache is commonly caused by TMJ syndrome. You may feel dizziness or nausea from TMJ.
Heat: Apply wet or dry heat to the affected jaw area at least twice a day for 10 minutes.
Medication: Anti-inflammatory medications are best such as Motrin, Advil or Aleve.
Diet: Soft diet- nothing that you have to chew or open the mouth wide for. Avoid hard meats and gum.
- Patient education of TMJ
- Restoring the range of motion of TMJ
- Soft tissue mobilization to orofacial muscles
- Joint mobilizations
- Modalities such as Ultrasound and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
- Self-relaxation techniques
- Education of lifestyle modification regarding diet
Physical Therapy is available in our office. Our licensed Physical Therapist has a doctrine degree in physical therapy and is available throughout the week for treatment. Please inquire with Dr. Gupta to get your treatment started.
Biteguard: Nighttime is when many people are clenching their jaw. Sleeping with this in daily can take the strain off the joint. We have biteguards available for purchase in our office, inquire within.