TMJ, also known as Temporomandibular Joints, is where the jaw attaches to the skull just in front of the ears. Each TMJ has a ball and socket joint with a cushioning disc in-between that allows the jaw to move front to back and sideways. If you suspect that you have a TMJ problem or are diagnosed with one, it is important that you consult an expert dentist to rule out other illnesses as a cause of your symptoms.
Some of the common causes are stress and anxiety. Sleep disorders, an abnormal bite, arthritis, or an injury can also lead to a painful TMJ.
Your dentist can diagnose the problem by checking the bite with marking paper, palpating the muscles around the joint. In some cases a CT or an MRI are ordered to aid in diagnosis. Depending on the cause, treatment can involve orthodontics or braces to move teeth into a better position. Bringing your teeth together in a stable way frequently helps with the stability of the TMJ.
There is also an oral appliance known as the NTI which is used to help patients with TMJ problems. An NTI normally helps a patient by suppressing the clenching and grinding at night time.
Your dentist may also suggest stress reducing stretching exercises. Medications such as Flexeril which is a muscle relaxant will also be prescribed while in rare cases, surgery may be deemed necessary. A good dentist will usually start with the most minor non-invasive therapies first and progress to longer, more expensive, and if necessary sometimes surgical procedures. However, surgery is considered only as a last resort if your dentist does not get desired results with other conservative techniques.
It may also be helpful to understand common symptoms associated with TMJ. Facial pain, migraines, neck and shoulder pain as well as sinus or ear infections, headaches, facial neuralgias (nerve-related facial pain), and even tumors are considered symptoms. Since the symptoms are quite broad, it is very important to visit a skilled dentist who can rule out other possible problems and help in correctly identifying TMJ disorders.