TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint)

What is TMJ?

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) occur as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving the jaw. These disorders are often incorrectly called TMJ, which stands for temporomandibular joint.

What Is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. The joints are flexible, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side and enabling you to talk, chew, and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control the position and movement of the jaw.

What Causes TMD?

The cause of TMD is not clear, but healthcare professionals believe that symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself.

Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck can cause TMD.  Grinding teeth, dislocation of the jaw, presence of arthritis or osteoarthritis and stress can all cause TMD

Common symptoms of TMD include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
  • Limited ability to open the mouth very wide
  • Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” in the open- or closed-mouth position
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth (which may or may not be accompanied by pain) or chewing
  • A tired feeling in the face
  • Difficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite – as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
  • Swelling on the side of the face
  • May occur on one or both sides of the face

Other common symptoms of TMD include toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, earaches, hearing problems, upper shoulder pain, and ringing in the ears (tinnitis).

How Do You Treat TMD?

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). This therapy uses low-level electrical currents to provide pain relief by relaxing the jaw joint and facial muscles. Ultrasound. Ultrasound treatment is deep heat that is applied to the TMJ to relieve soreness or improve mobility.
  • Trigger-point injections. Pain medication or anesthesia is injected into tender facial muscles called “trigger points” to relieve pain.
  • Acupuncture. Acupuncture stimulates the joint, which increases blood flow. The patient experiences relief of pain in the joint.