Temporomandibular Joint & Muscle Disorders
Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, commonly called TMJ, are a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement. It's uncertain exactly how many people have TMJ disorders, but some estimates suggest that over 10 million North Americans are affected. The condition appears to be more common in women than men. TMJ is referred to by different names such as TMD, TMJ disorder, and TMJ dysfunction.
For most people, pain in the area of the jaw joint or muscles does not signal a serious problem. Generally, discomfort from these conditions is occasional and temporary, often occurring in cycles. The pain eventually goes away with little or no treatment. Some people, however, develop significant, long-term symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of TMJ?
A variety of symptoms may be linked to TMJ disorders:
- Pain, particularly in the chewing muscles and/or jaw joint, is the most common symptom.
- Radiating pain in the face, jaw, or neck Jaw muscle stiffness
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw
- Painful clicking, popping or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth
- A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together
TMJ symptoms can be sporatic and become more severe for a short time and then recede back to normal, which is why they are so hard to diagnose and treat. What makes it worse is that the direct causes to TMJ & TMD are not known. Most people have relatively mild forms of the disorder and their symptoms can improve significantly, or disappear spontaneously, within weeks or months. For others, the condition causes long-term, persistent and debilitating pain.
The roles of stress and tooth grinding as major causes of TMJ disorders are also unclear. The link between stress and TMJ may not be entirely clear, but it can be assumed that those dealing with high levels of stress may be more susceptible to succumbing to TMJ. Disorders of the jaw joint and chewing muscles - and how people respond to them - vary widely. Another problem that arises with diagnosing TMJ is that a person may have one or more of these conditions at the same time.
TMJ conditions usually fall into three main categories:
- Myofascial pain - the most common temporomandibular disorder, involves discomfort or pain in the muscles that control jaw function.
- Internal derangement - The joint involves a displaced disc, dislocated jaw, or injury to the condyle.
- Arthritis - refers to a group of degenerative/inflammatory joint disorders that can affect the temporomandibular joint.
How are TMJ disorders diagnosed?
There is no widely accepted, standard test available to correctly diagnose TMJ disorders. Because the exact causes and symptoms are not clear, identifying these disorders can be difficult and confusing. At Mesa Dental, we listen to your description of the symptoms you are experiencing and look at your medical and dental history. After that, we examine the problem areas, including the head, neck, face, and jaw. Taking all of this into account, we may diagnose you with a form of TMJ, and provide you with suggestions on what you can do to minimize your discomfort. TMJ treatment varies from patient to patient, but you can be sure that we will examine your case individually to assess your specific needs.
How are TMJ disorders treated?
Due to the lack of evidence of the causes of TMJ, experts strongly recommend using the most conservative, reversible treatments possible. Conservative treatments do not invade the tissues of the face, jaw, or joint, or involve surgery. Reversible treatments do not cause permanent changes in the structure or position of the jaw or teeth. Even when TMJ disorders have become persistent, most patients still may not need aggressive types of treatment.
For more information on TMJ Treatment in the Santa Barbara, CA area call Mesa Dental at (805) 963-1222 today!