Do I Have TMJ?
Yes-absolutely. In fact you have 2, since TMJ is the temporomandibular (jaw) joint! It is also the slang term used to describe a constellations of symptoms commonly found in this joint.
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) refers to several conditions that can occur in the jaw joint. These are widespread conditions. Studies show that approximately 30% of adults have TMD, and approximately 16% of adolescents 18 years and younger have TMD. Bruxism (tooth grinding during sleep) or clenching are most often correlated to the condition, but other causes may also play a role in any particular case.
Symptoms: On each side of the jaw, a disc is located between the bones of the joint that is similar to the discs found in the spine in that it functions in much the same way as a shock absorber. When the ligament that attaches this disc to the bone becomes irreversibly stretched, the disc becomes unstable in its position and is capable of movement, resulting in the most familiar symptom to TMD sufferers, a clicking noise that may be painful or may just produce a sound.
Sometimes the disc may become dislodged from the joint and become trapped outside the joint. The result is limited mouth opening or jaw locking. Over time, the disc can deteriorate to the point that it no longer functions as a shock absorber. Bone-on-bone contact can result, with a grating feeling in the joint similar to tennis elbow or runner’s knee.
Other common symptoms seen with TMD are headaches, neck aches and ear aches, ringing ears and pain when chewing.
Treatment for temporomandibular joint disorder can consist of several different types of modalities. A nightguard, medication, changes in diet, behavioral therapy and orthodontically treating a harmful bite are often prescribed. Surgery is an option as a last resort in cases not responding to more conservative treatment.
A thorough exam of the bite, temporomandibular joints, medical and dental history, and examination of habits is essential in determining the cause and best course of action in treating this all-too-common malady.