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The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull. You have two joints, one of each side of your jaw. TMJ disorders are a type of temporomandibular disorder that cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement which is due to a number of factors.
The exact reason for a person’s TMJ disorder is often challenging to determine. The pain may be due to a variety of complications, such as genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury. Some people who have jaw pain also tend to clench or grind their teeth out of habit (bruxism), although many people who habitually clench or grind their teeth don’t necessarily develop TMJ disorders.
In most cases, the pain and discomfort is temporary when it comes to TMJ disorders and can be relieved with self-managed care or noninvasive treatments. Surgery is typically a last resort after conservative measures are deemed ineffective, but for some people suffering from TMJ disorders, surgical treatments are the only benefitting route.
Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:
- Pain or soreness of your jaw
- Constant pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Locking of the joint, whereas opening or closing your mouth is difficult
TMJ disorders can also cause a cracking sound or grating feeling when you open your mouth or chew. Remember that you won’t need treatment for a TMJ disorder if there’s no pain or movement limitations from your jaw clicking.
If your jaw pain persists and the tenderness continues, seek medical attention, especially if you can’t fully open or close your jaw. Your doctor, your dentist or a TMJ specialist can discuss possible grounds and actions to treat your problem.
The temporomandibular joint combines a hinge action with swift sliding motions. The parts of the bones that interact in the joint are covered with cartilage which normally keeps the movement simple and smooth, and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk. In many cases, however, the cause of TMJ disorders isn’t clear so consult thoroughly with your doctor.
Painful TMJ disorders can occur if the shock-absorbing disk erodes or slides out of its proper alignment due to natural or external factors, or the joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis, or if the joint is damaged by a blow or other impact.
Factors that may increase the risk of developing TMJ disorders include:
- Various types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
- Long-term (chronic) grinding or clenching of teeth
- Particular connective tissue diseases
- Patients with other chronic inflammatory arthritis
- People with badly positioned teeth or jaw trauma
- Overall poor posture in the neck and upper back muscles may lead to consequent neck strain and abnormalities of jaw muscle function
- Stress may increase muscle tension, jaw clenching, and teeth grinding
- People who have a genetic tendency to pain sensitivity and increased stress responses may be more susceptible
Dr. Kanwar Kelley is located at Orinda California and if you need treatment for TMJ Disorders, don’t hesitate to make an appointment (925) 254-6710. He is an experienced physician in many illnesses who can guide your health in the right direction.