The temporomandibular (tem-puh-roe-mun-DIB-u-lur) joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. TMJ disorders can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.
The exact cause of a person's TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine. Your pain may be due to a combination of problems, such as arthritis or jaw injury. Some people who have jaw pain also tend to clench or grind their teeth, but many people habitually clench their teeth and never develop TMJ disorders.
In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders can be alleviated with self-managed care or nonsurgical treatments. Severe TMJ disorders may require surgical repair.
TMJ disorders affect the temporomandibular joint, located on each side of your head in front of your ears. A soft disk acts as a cushion between the bones of the joint, so the joint can move smoothly....
Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:
TMJ disorders can also cause a clicking sound or grating sensation when you open your mouth or chew. But if there's no pain or limitation of movement associated with your jaw clicking, you probably don't need treatment for a TMJ disorder.
When to see a doctor
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) combines a hinge action with sliding motions. The parts of the bones that interact in the joint are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk, which normally keeps the movement smooth.
Painful TMJ disorders can occur if:
In many cases, however, the cause of TMJ disorders isn't clear.
TMJ disorders most commonly occur in women between the ages of 20 and 40, but may occur at any age.
Preparing for your appointment
You'll probably first talk about your TMJ symptoms with your family doctor or dentist. If their suggested treatments don't provide enough relief, you may eventually be referred to a doctor who specializes in TMJ disorders.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor or dentist
Tests and diagnosis
During the physical exam, your doctor or dentist will probably:
If your doctor or dentist suspects a problem with your teeth, you may need X-rays. A CT scan can provide detailed images of the bones involved in the joint, and MRIs can reveal problems with the joint's disk.
Treatments and drugs
In some cases, the symptoms of TMJ disorders may go away without treatment. If your symptoms persist, your doctor may recommend a variety of treatment options.
Surgical or other procedures
Lifestyle and home remedies
Becoming more aware of tension-related habits — clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth or chewing pencils — will help you reduce their frequency. The following tips may help you alleviate symptoms of TMJ disorders:
Complementary and alternative medicine techniques can sometimes help control the chronic pain often associated with TMJ disorders. Examples include:
Last Updated: 2012-12-13
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