A TMJ disorder is a condition involving a patient’s temporomandibular joint, or muscles which support it. Those that have it will experience pain, which will range from moderate to severe, and may have issues speaking or eating. The good news is that dentists are familiar with the condition, and have devised a number of ways to treat it in a manner which will dramatically reduce and even eliminate the symptoms.
TMJ is actually a broad term which is used to describe discomfort which is manifested by the mastication muscles. These muscles are connected to the joints which attach the skull and mandible. Pain is the primary symptom, which may also be associated with reduced movement of the mandible. Some patients have also reported hearing noises from the joints while moving their jaws. Many dental practitioners actually refer to TMJ as being a type of symptom complex, as opposed to a condition, and it may be caused by numerous factors. Although the condition is not life threatening, it can erode one’s quality of life, particularly if the symptoms are chronic and hard to manage.
Research indicates that between twenty and thirty percent of the population has TMJ, to varying degrees. Most people afflicted are between the ages of twenty and forty, and the condition has greater prevalence among women than men. This condition can actually be challenging to detect since it mimics other dental issues which are unrelated.
However, someone that experiences frequent headaches, particularly those which are centered near the eyes or temples, may have it, as well as those who have ear ringing, a pain in the shoulder or neck which they cannot explain, and problems chewing normally. If you suddenly have difficulty moving your jaw, or hear a click or pop when opening your mouth or closing it, this could be a sign of the disorder.
In extreme cases, individuals may notice facial swelling, difficulty hearing, opening the mouth wide, and tooth aches which upon inspection don’t appear to result from standard dental problems. This disorder has also been found to cause problems regarding nutrition, largely because it results in the patient being unable to eat their food naturally.
This condition can be challenging to treat. The reason for this is because it encompasses the boundaries of multiple disciplines, including neurology. Many dentists feel that treatments involving permanent jaw or tooth modification should not be undertaken, and instead medicine, various devices and behavioral techniques should be used. One of the most common is occlusal splints, which are also known as bite plates. These devices are usually constructed from acrylic and made to be soft or hard. They will fit on the top or bottom teeth, and are designed to force the patient’s teeth to meet in a way which is desirable and which allows for proper mastication.