What is TMJ?
Your TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, connects your cheekbones to your jaw and is responsible for the up, down, and side to side movement of your lower jaw - the same movements that allow you to talk, chew and yawn. When these joints are working properly, you won’t even notice they exist. However, inflammation, injury and even stress can interfere with your TMJ’s normal functioning and lead to a pain and discomfort.
Causes Of Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
Exact causes of TMD are often unknown, however dentists believe that problems with the jaw muscles or joint can lead to the disorder. Jaw and joint injuries, as well as head and neck muscle injuries can often play a role in developing temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
TMD Causes Can Include:
- Heavy grinding & clinching (bruxism)
- Whiplash or other injury
- Erosion of the joint or misalignment
- Cartilage damage or arthritis
TMJ is very common in our culture, so we evaluate every patient for TMJ dysfunction (TMJD) at their regular dental exam. If we detect a problem, our goals are to arrest it, protect teeth from further damage, and correct the underlying bite misalignment. Therapy may involve fitting you with a physiologic bite appliance, suggesting ways to alleviate stress, and recommending symptom relief measures. Typically, TMJD patients need to avoid chewing gum or hard, chewy food, take small bites, and alternate chewing between both sides of the mouth. Good nutrition will help the joint heal more quickly; good posture will also help relieve discomfort. A straight back, relaxed neck, and side-sleeping position are also helpful.