Disorders of the Jaw Joint

The jaw joint is known as the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) and is located in the front of the ear canals which can be easily felt with your fingers. It is one of the bodies most used joints and is important in relation to chewing, talking and yawning. Any disorder of this joint can limit these functions and cause pain.


Causes of TMJ Disorders

There are many ways in which TMJ disorders can develop. These can be through the loss of teeth which can alter the bite, or grinding and clenching habits which cause abnormal pressure in the TMJ. Emotional or physical stress can induce grinding and clenching creating pressure in the joint. Traumatic injuries like a fractured or broken jaw, degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis and the poor design of dentures, bridges and fillings can also lend to the development of TMJ disorders. Careful diagnosis of the cause, by your dentist is important.tmj-patient-4-1

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

As each person is different and TMJ symptoms can become evident in many different ways. These may include limited jaw movement when trying to open or close the jaw. Locking of the jaw, clicking or popping noises from the joint, pain and discomfort when opening or closing your mouth are also common symptoms. Headaches, earaches or muscular pain due to inflammation from around the joint or aching teeth can also become apparent.

Diagnosis of TMJ Problems

Accurate diagnosis is important to enable the correct treatment. Your dentists will diagnose your condition based on:

  •  the location of pain or stiffness
  •  the range and limitation of jaw movements
  •  audible joint noises
  •  tooth wear
  •  movement of teeth

Also to assist in the diagnosis of your jaw our dentist may also recommend plaster moulds of your teeth and x-rays.

 Methods of Treatment


 Some TMJ problems can be temporary and may resolve over a period of time. For this reason, early treatment methods are conservative. The aim of any treatment is to lessen the discomfort and improve the function of the joint, but in some people this can take several months to occur. If it is necessary to introduce treatment and depending on your symptoms and diagnosis your treatment may consist of the following:

  • wearing a night guard (similar to a mouthguard) when sleeping, which is known as an

occlusal splint

  •  physiotherapy or behaviour management
  •  relaxation and stress management
  •  medication, such as muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatories
  • referral for specialist management
  •  or in rare cases your dentist will refer you to an Oral Surgeon

 Talk to your dentist. Make an appointment with one of the Oral Experts dentists if you think your jaw joints may be a problem

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