• TMJ - An Overview

    Facial Pain may be TMJ Pain

    The stats and symptoms

    More than fifteen percent of our adult population suffers from chronic facial pain. Pain complaint may be located around the ear, jaw, head or neck. Patients may complain of jaw clicking and popping as well.

    Two joints and several jaw muscles make it possible to open and close the mouth. They work together when you chew, speak, and swallow. These structures include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone, the mandible (lower jaw) with two joints, the TMJ’s.

    The Anatomy

    The TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint) is one of the most complex joints in the body. Located on each side of the head, these joints work together in harmony and can create many different movements, including a combination of rotating and gliding action, used when chewing, biting, yawning and speaking.

    Several muscles, called the elevator and depressor muscles help open and close the mouth. They control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward, and side-to-side. Both TMJs are involved in these movements. Each TM joint has a disc between the ball and socket. The disc acts as a cushion while enabling the jaw to perform rotating and gliding movements. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working together properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.

    Diagnosis & Treatment

    Dr Keerti will identify the source of the pain with a thorough exam and appropriate x-rays. The first step is to rule out pain of Odontogenic (tooth) or periodontal (gums and alveolar bone ) origin. It is also important to check to see if the pain has a sinus etiology. Occasionally, the cause is not easily diagnosed and may need follow-up appointments and diagnostic testing.

    The TMJ related pain could be attributable to the facial muscles, the discs, the capsule, the ligaments, the jaw or temporomandibular joint itself. Sometimes, joint, ligaments, and muscles used for chewing and grinding food may all be involved. In some cases, it is not possible to clearly determine the causes. In some complex cases, where more than one doctor is involved, it may be difficult to get a consensus on treatment.

    Some TM problems result from arthritis, dislocation, and injury. All of these conditions can cause pain and dysfunction. Muscles that move the joints are also subject to injury and disease. Injuries to the jaw, head or neck, and diseases such as arthritis, might result in some TM problems. Other factors that relate to the way the teeth fit together—the bite—may cause some types of TMD. Stress is thought to be a factor. TMD affects women of childbearing age more than men, or older men and women.

    Please see the TMJ treatment section for a brief review on treatment modalities.

  • TMJ Treatments

    Some TM problems result from arthritis, dislocation, and injury. All of these conditions can cause pain and dysfunction. Muscles that move the joints are also subject to injury and disease. Injuries to the jaw, head or neck, and diseases such as arthritis, might result in some TM problems. Other factors that relate to the way the teeth fit together—the bite—may cause some types of TMD. Stress is thought to be a factor. TMD affects women of childbearing age more than men, or older men and women.

    There are several ways the TMJ disorders may be treated. Treatment may involve a series of steps. The step-by-step plan is in your best interest because only minor, relatively non-invasive treatment may be needed. Treatments for this pain may include stress reducing exercises, muscle relaxants, or wearing a mouth protector to prevent teeth grinding.

    Diagnosis is an important step before treatment. Part of your clinical examination includes checking the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving. Your complete medical history may be reviewed, so it is important to keep your dental office record up-to-date. Your dentist may take x-rays and may make a “cast” of your teeth to see how your bite fits together. We may also request specialized x-rays for the TMJs.