Temporomandibular disorder, more commonly know as TMJ, affects the tempromandibular joint, a part of the head that includes the hinge of the lower jaw and the temporal bone of the skull below the ear. This is the area of the head that controls chewing, biting and all other movements of the jaw. This means that TMJ can cause pain when carrying out the simplest of activity such as eating and talking. This pain can range from mild to severe and intermittent to constant.
It was commonly though that TMJ was caused by emotional or psychological disorders such as stress, but common opinion seems to favour a wider variety of causes. One of the most common causes is a problem affecting the bite. This is the way the top and bottom teeth sit together and can be caused by any alterations caused in either dental arc. For example, a knocked out or chipped tooth could alter the way the teeth sit together. This can cause muscular problems in the areas around the jawbone which lead to TMJ. In other cases it is believed that TMJ is caused by a head trauma such as a sudden jolt. This can cause misalignment of the joint that affects its movement.
Unfortunately, the most common symptom for TMJ is pain. Diagnosis usually follows a period of pain in the patient, which can spread to the neck and shoulders. The dentist will conduct a clench test, which sees whether the teeth and jaw hurt when the top and bottom teeth are clenched together. If diagnosed, the dentist will make moulds of the teeth and bite and mount them on an instrument called an articulator. This mimics the movement of the jaw so that the dentist can ascertain what is causing the pain.
Temporary relief can be had from TMJ by taking over-the-counter pain medication. Hot and cold packs also provide some relief from muscular pain. The dentist may also advise preventative measures such as limiting jaw movement and staying away from crunchy or chewy foods.
Long-term treatments are usually in the form of physical therapy and medication, although it is increasingly being found that dental appliances such as a mouth guard or splint can be used to improve bite and limit the causes of TMJ.
If you are experiencing unexplained pain in the jaw, head or neck, make an appointment to see a London W1 dentist. There is an end to this painful condition with the correct diagnosis and treatment form a trained dentist.