Dentists often refer to TMJ, which stands for the Tempormandibular Joint. This is the hinge like joint that connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull and is immediately in front of the ear on either side of your head. The joints are flexible, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side enabling you to talk, chew and yawn.
Tempormandibular disorders (TMJ) occur as a result of problems with the jaw, joint and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and jaw movement. Some of the possible causes included
Injury to the jaw, TMJ or muscles of the head and neck, from and heavy blow or whiplash
Grinding or clenching the teeth often caused by stress
Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket
Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
TMJ can be extremely painful and some common symptoms are:
- Clicking or popping sounds on opening and closing, which may or may not be painful
- Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint, neck and shoulders and in or around the ear when you chew speak or open your mouth wide
- Limited opening
- Jaw may get locked when opening or closing
- Difficulty chewing or uncomfortable bite
- Mild swelling of the face
Dr Tom Trevethan has many years of experience in the treatment of TMJ including studying with Dr Gebb in New York.
Splints (similar to mouthguards) can be made to hold your jaw in the correct position to ease the tension on muscles and ligaments. There are numerous materials used to make splints. Soft splints such as “The Aqualizer” fluid system or hard splints, depending on the individual problem.
Naturally a full examination is needed to determine if there is a problem with the TMJ and what maybe causing the problem. The first point of treatment is to be fairly conservative however sometime more invasive treatment is required. Invasive treatment could consist of Reshaping teeth, Reconstruction of the mouth with crowns, Orthodontics or even surgery.