TMJ Disorder Defined
TMJ disorder refers to an array of problems stemming from the temporomandibular joint. Most people refer to these problems as “TMJ,” as in, “I’ve got TMJ.” Actually, everyone has TMJ, in that we all have two temporomandibular joints. The TMJ’s are the sliding hinges on both sides of your head that connects your jaw to your skull. You can feel them slightly in front of your ears. You likely have a TMJ disorder when that area hurts or if it hurts when you’re opening and closing your mouth to speak or eat.
TMJ bones are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk, which keeps the hinge moving smoothly. Many people suffer from pain when the bones, cartilage, or the shock-absorbing disk become inflamed, irritated, damaged, or slide out of place.
The many and diverse symptoms of TMJ disorder can include any of the following:
Locking of the jaw, or inability to open or move the jaw;
Grinding or clenching of teeth, especially during sleep.
Popping or clicking jaw sounds;
Neck, shoulder or back pain;
First, tell your dentist about your symptoms. She or he will probably already know if you are a clencher or grinder from the appearance and condition of your teeth. There are some very simple solutions, to begin with:
Snore guards are devices you can wear at night to help quiet your snoring and can also stop you from grinding or clenching. These devices look kind of like athletic mouth guards or retainers worn after someone has had braces. Some come with a metal adjuster and some are made of soft silicone that holds your jaw in a forward position. Your specific needs will determine the type you should use.
If you’re a clencher, Botox is a fantastic and easy fix. A small amount of the product is injected into the TMJ muscle and within a few days, the muscles begin to relax and will be happy. Many of our patients swear by this technique for TMJ pain and headaches.