TMJ: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

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The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is one of the most complex joints in the human body. In this blog, our Whitehorse dentists discuss the three main types of TMJ disorders (TMD) including their symptoms and the treatments available.

What are TMJ Disorders?

The TMJ is the joint that connects the temporal bones of your skull (located just beneath your temple, in front of your ear) to your jaw. You use this hinge every day, every time you move your jaw to eat, talk, and breath.

You can develop a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) when you have a problem with your facial muscles and jaw. You begin to feel pain in this area and if the disorder worsens to a severe state, you might not be able to move the joint

What are the Types of TMJ Disorders?

Below we explain the three main types of TMJ disorders:

Joint Degenerative Disorders

Most commonly known as osteoarthritis, this joint degenerative disorder happens when cartilage holding the round ends of the two bones in your jaw together breaks or wears away.

Cartilage absorbs shocks during movement and allows your bones to glide easily over each other. When the cartilage erodes, pain and swelling will occur, and you may not be able to move your jaw.

Muscle Disorders

Also known as, myofascial pain, muscle disorders consist of discomfort and pain in every muscle that controls the movement of your jaw. You might also feel pain in your shoulders, neck, and jaw muscles.

Joint Derangement Disorders

A small, soft disc located between the temporal bone and the condyle helps make it easy and smooth to open and close your jaw. This disc is also essential for absorbing shocks to the jaw joint that occurs during movement.

When someone has a joint derangement disorder, the inner workings of the jaw are unbalanced or disrupted because of a dislocated disc or damaged bone.

This displaced disc causes internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint. There are currently no surgical treatments for this condition. 

What are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorders?

With every type of TMJ Disorder, you’ll likely experience pain in your jaw and face. The area around your ears may hurt, and you’ll feel an ache when you open your mouth to eat or talk.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Grinding, clicking, or popping sounds when you open your jaw
  • Headaches, dizziness, or pain in your temples
  • Problems opening, closing, or clenching your jaw 
  • Facial bruising or swelling
  • Additional pain in your neck and/or shoulders

When Should I See a Dentist for TMJ Treatment?

If at-home remedies such as avoiding stress, chewing gum, gently massaging your neck and jaw muscles, trying over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have not helped improve your discomfort, it's time to schedule a dental appointment.

A dental professional can review your dental history, conduct a comprehensive examination of your bite and jaw, and take X-rays to assess before officially diagnosing you with a TMJ Disorder. The treatment he or she recommends may include:

  • Physical Therapy
  • TMJ therapy
  • Dental splints
  • Prescription medications
  • Oral Surgery

A dentist can help you manage your TMJ Disorder with a combination of home remedies and attentive dental care.

For more information about TMJ disorders contact our Whitehorse dentists today.


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(867) 668-3152