What is TMJ?
TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint which connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the bone at the side of your head (temporal bone). When someone has a temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder, they may experience pain in the jaw joint and muscles, stiffness, limited opening, clicking and popping of the joint when opening or closing, and sometimes a change in how the upper and lower teeth overlap. The exact cause of TMJ disorder is not known, although trauma to the jaw or joint may play a role and it can be more prevalent in those with higher stress levels.
How is it Diagnosed?
A diagnosis would be made from a detailed medical and dental history, an examination of the head, neck, face, and jaw, and from radiographic images such as a Panorex or CT Scan which would show changes in the joint.
How is it Treated?
There are simple steps that a patient can take to alleviate the symptoms. These include eating soft foods, avoiding extreme joint movements such as wide yawning and gum chewing, and jaw relaxation exercises. Anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen, as well as muscle relaxants can also provide relief from discomfort.
Other treatment options include use of a biteguard, occlusal adjustment to balance the dental bite, use of a TENS unit to relax overstimulation of the involved muscles, and massage therapy with a physical therapist. And of course, whatever you can do to decrease stress in your life will help as well.