TMJ Disorder (TMD)

Your jaw moves along two large joints known as temporomandibular joints (TMJs), which are located just in front of each ear. TMJs connect your lower jaw to your temple, allowing your lower jaw to move as needed to bite, chew, and speak. When these joints are compromised, a condition known as TMJ disorder, the results can include difficulty opening and closing your jaw, chronic jaw and facial pain, and more. TMJ disorder also causes chronic headaches, ringing in your ears, and several other symptoms that are shared by numerous other conditions. Because of the diversity of its symptoms, TMJ disorder is difficult to diagnose and alleviate without a careful examination by your dentist.

Causes of TMJ Disorder

Unlike tooth decay and gum disease, which develop from a singular cause (oral bacteria), TMJ disorder can develop from several, often unrelated conditions. Some of the more common reasons for TMJ disorder include:

  • Malocclusion, which forces your jaw muscles to work harder as you bite and chew.
  • An injury to the face or jaw that has damaged one or both of the joints.
  • Bruxism, or constant teeth-grinding, which overworks your jaw’s joints and muscles.
  • Arthritis in one or both of your TMJs.
  • A congenital defect in the symmetry of your jawbone.
  • And more.

Treatment Options

While accurately pinpointing TMJ disorder can be challenging, treating it once it has been diagnosed is often straight-forward. Many patients can find relief with a simple, comfortable nightguard, similar to those prescribed for patients who suffer from bruxism. A TMJ guard is designed to hold your jaw in a more comfortable position as you sleep, allowing the jaw joints to relax and heal. Patients with severe TMJ troubles may require treatment by an oral/maxillofacial surgeon who specializes in complex oral and facial structures.

Treatment may also include addressing the underlying issue behind TMJ disorder, such as orthodontic braces for malocclusion or oral surgery to correct a malformed jawbone.