TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint located in front of each ear, connecting the lower jaw with the skull. It allows opening and closing of the mouth, and assists with chewing and speaking. Unfortunately, this joint is a common area for recurring pain. Although conventional wisdom suggests that “popping” sounds in the jaw indicates a TMJ dysfunction, this is not always true. Many times, your jaw is functioning properly even if a “popping” sound is present when chewing or talking.
When pain in the joint occurs, these simple tasks may be painful or difficult. Patients can hear a popping or scraping sound; the jaw can even lock.
While these problems are usually caused by grinding of the teeth or ball and socket dislocation, treatment should always begin with a thorough exam of jaw and joint tissues. X-rays may also be employed to determine treatment. We offer appliances that can be worn in the mouth to prevent or improve damage to this joint, and we also recommend jaw exercises when appropriate.
We offer a TMJ exam that evaluates the joint tissue in the “hinge” of the jaw. Possible problems include swelling, deterioration of the joint tissue or damaged joint tissue (which cushions the jaw bones during the opening and closing movement of the mouth). Common pain relievers and cold compresses can provide temporary relief for most cases of TMJ.
For more serious cases of TMJ, we will recommend alternate treatments. Often, we will suggest using a mouth guard to relieve teeth grinding. In some cases, we will instruct you to use orthodontic appliances or retainers to alleviate discomfort or redirect positioning of the TMJ joint. For the most severe cases of TMJ, we may recommend certain invasive procedures.