What is TMJ?
People who grind their teeth can sometimes develop a serious problem with their jaw, which left untreated, can adversely affect the teeth, gums, and bone structures of the mouth.
One of the most common jaw disorders is related to a problem with the temporomandibular joint, the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull, and allows your upper and lower jaw to open and close, and facilitates chewing and speaking.
What are Common Symptoms of TMJ?
People with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ disorders, sometimes called TMD) often have a clicking or popping sound when opening and closing their mouths. Such disorders are often accompanied by frequent headaches, neck aches, and in some cases, tooth sensitivity. They may also experience chronic pain, muscle tension, and jaw pain.
How is TMJ Diagnosed?
Although there is no specific test to diagnose TMJ, if you suspect you may be suffering from TMJ, you should consult with a healthcare professional. Often, a doctor will diagnose TMD by doing a physical exam to find the cause of the symptoms then considering the patient's medical history.
"A doctor may send the patient to an oral and maxillofacial specialist, an otolaryngologist (also called an ear, nose, and throat doctor or ENT specialist), or a dentist specializing in jaw disorders to confirm the diagnosis. Sometimes a health care professional may order an MRI of the temporomandibular joint to detect damage to the cartilage of the jaw joint and to rule out other medical problems." - medicinenet.com
How to Treat TMJ
Although some home remedies such as ice packs being applied to the joint, avoiding chewing gum, and gentle stretches may be effective, in some cases dental treatment is required. Some treatments for TMJ include muscle relaxants, aspirin, biofeedback, or wearing a small plastic appliance in the mouth during sleep.
Minor cases of TMJ involve discomfort or pain in the jaw muscles. More serious conditions involve improperly aligned joints or dislocated jaws. The most extreme form of TMJ involves an arthritic condition of the jaw joint. Traumatic injuries also can cause jaw dislocation.
In these cases, jaw surgery may be required to correct the condition. Some jaw surgery can be performed arthroscopically.