The TMJ or Temporomandibular joint is the joint connecting the jaw to the skull. TMD or Temporomandibular Disorder is the dysfunctions of the jaw muscles. Due to its location in front of the ear and at the rear of the mouth, proper function of the TMJ is mainly dependent on the maintenance of healthy teeth.
The etiologic factor causing TMJ pain is mal-occlusion. If untreated, these can lead to further breakdown of the joint and facial structure.
Common symptoms of TMD are: pain while chewing, clicking or popping of the joint, stuffiness or itching, loss of hearing and dizziness in the ear, grinding or clenching of teeth, and pain in the facial muscles, head and neck.
TMJ Disorder can also be the result of the following: excessive stress; whiplash or other head, back or neck trauma; crooked teeth or a deep overbite; the loss of teeth; poor posture; the strain of dental surgery such as poorly fitted dental crowns and dentures. Sometimes a seemingly unrelated injury (shoulder, knee, hip, etc.) can trigger the TMJ.
Among the most common, irritating and difficult to diagnose problems with head and neck pain are temporal mandibular joint problems, more commonly known as TMJ problems. The joint is located near the ear where the top of the mandible or lower jaw meets the upper jaw at the base of the skull.
Like all other joints in the body, the TMJ is subject to inflammation and other chronic joint problems. Many of these issues may be caused by destructive bite habits like clenching or grinding. These actions cause pressure on the joint that can lead to inflammation and general breakdown of the joint itself.
What makes TMJ problems difficult to diagnose and treat properly is the fact that the symptoms vary widely in both location and severity. Symptoms can range from a slight clicking in the jaw with no pain to severe head and neck pain which is not relieved by medication.
Once diagnosed properly treatments include everything from simple placement of a nightguard, which prevents pressure on the joint to surgical intervention in more severe cases. Our dental health professional, Dr. Salartash in Del Ray, Alexandria is the person most able to diagnose this widely variable and very common issue.