TMJ and TMD
TMJ stands for tempomandibular joint disorder. It refers to the pain that one feels in the muscles of mastication as well and an inflammation of the tempomandibular joint. This is the joint that connects the mandible to the skull. The main cause of this is parafunction of the muscles with secondary effects on the oral musculoskeletal system such as the several types of disc displacement in the temporomandibular joint. This disorder can bring about severe pain. This disorder usually crosses boundaries between several disciplines, normally dentistry and neurology. This means that there are several ways in which it can be treated. One of which is through a removable appliance called an Occlusal Guard and/or Night Guard. By wearing this appliance at night you an re-train your muscles and brain to think there is something between your teeth, which forces it to cease grinding and clenching at night, which causes the most damage to the TMJ muscles and jaw bone.
Conditions that affect other joints such as trauma, arthritis, developmental anomalies and dislocations can also affect the temporomandibular joint.
The main signs and symptoms of temporomandibular joints (TMJ) will involve signs and symptoms that affect the following components of the TMJ – nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons, connective tissue, bones and teeth. Ear pain is also another symptom of temporomandibular joint disorder.
Other symptoms include:
- Difficulty or discomfort when chewing and biting
- A click of pop sound when opening and closing your mouth
- Facial pain
- Earache (especially in the morning)
- Headache (especially in the morning)
- Hearing loss
- Tenderness of the jaw
- Neck and shoulder pain
A TMJ has two joints which give it the ability to rotate and slide. It is therefore possible to see signs of wear of both the bone and cartilage components of the joint. Clicking, popping and deviations in the movements of the jaw are all common. However, the most telling sign of TMD is pain.
There are no pain receptors between the surfaces that are in contact with one another. The pain therefore comes from the surrounding soft tissues or the trigeminal nerve. Once the pain from one of these areas is triggered, it limits the reflex of the mandible. Additional inflammation of the joints or damage to the trigeminal nerve can cause continuous pain even without the jaw moving.
Since the temporomandibular joint is close to the ear, TMJ pain can be mistaken for ear pain. TMD is a possible cause of secondary otalgia. Treating TMD may reduce symptoms of otalgia and tinnitus to a great extent.
Most of the dysfunction involves relationship between the disc and the condyle of the mandible. When a single sound is heard, it is referred to as a ‘click’ or a ‘pop’. When this sound is continuous, it is referred to as a ‘crepitation’ or a ‘crepitus’.
TMJ dysfunction can also be brought about by disorders of the teeth. Destruction of a tooth’s supporting bone can cause the impairing of a tooth’s mobility or the loss of a tooth. The teeth’s movement affects how they contact each other when the mouth closes. This can result to changes in the overall relationship between the teeth, joints and muscles. Excessive surface erosion can also bring about pulpitis. This is the inflammation of the dental pulp.