TMJ / TMD Treatment

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the name of the joint located on either side of your head, just in front of your ears. These joints connect your mandible (jawbone) to your temporal bone (skull). The TMJ, which can rotate and move forward, backward and side to side, is considered one of the most complex joints in the body. This joint, in combination with other muscles and ligaments, lets you chew, swallow, speak and yawn. When you have a problem with the muscle, bone or other tissue in the area in and around the TMJ, you may have a TMD.

TMD is a group of complex problems with many possible causes. Some conditions that can lead to TMD are teeth grinding and jaw clenching, misalignment of the teeth, trauma to the jaw and stress. It may result in chronic pain in the jaw, face, head and shoulders. Other common symptoms are headache, ear pain, and popping or clicking of the joint.

A complete dental and medical evaluation is often necessary and recommended to evaluate patients with suspected TMJ disorders. One or more of the following diagnostic clues or procedures may be used to establish the diagnosis. Damaged jaw joints are suspected when there are popping, clicking, and grating sounds associated with movement of the jaw. Chewing may become painful, and the jaw may lock or not open widely. The teeth may be worn smooth, as well as show a loss of the normal bumps and ridges on the tooth surface. Ear symptoms are very common. Infection of the ear, sinuses, and teeth can be discovered by medical and dental examination. Dental X-rays and computerized tomography (CT) scanning help to define the bony detail of the joint, while magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to analyze soft tissues.

Because TMD is a complex disorder, so is the treatment. The mainstay of treatment includes jaw rest, heat and ice application, medications such as muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories, splint therapy (mouth guards) and correction of an abnormal bite.