The temporomandibular joints, known as TMJ, are the joints and jaw muscles on the sides of your head. These are the muscles that allow the mouth to open and close, and are required to chew, swallow and talk. The TMJ allow the lower jaw to move forward, backward as well a side-to-side.
Each joint has a disc between the ball and socket. This disc cushions the load while allowing the jaw to open widely and to turn or glide. This is a complex system of muscles, ligaments, and bone, and anything that prevents it from working properly can result in an uncomfortable TMJ disorder.
Some sources of TMJ problems include:
- Misaligned bite
- Teeth grinding
- Jaw dislocation
- Jaw injury
For symptom management, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research offers these simple tips:
- Consuming softer foods
- Keeping away from chewing gum
- Use an ice pack
- Use gentle jaw stretching and relaxation exercises
In order to treat a TMJ disorder, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis of the problem. An aspect of this oral examination involves inspecting the joints and muscles for pain, clicking, popping or problems moving. Depending upon the prognosis, your doctor could refer you to a dentist or periodontist for treatment.
There are many treatment options when it comes to TMJ conditions. Your doctor or dentist may suggest:
- Therapy to strengthen your jaw muscles
- Medicines such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, analgesics, pain killers or anti-anxiety medications
- Bite therapy such as splits, mouth guards or orthodontics
Often, the TMD is due to problems with occlusion; how your upper and lower teeth fit together. This is an area where Periodontal Associates of Memphis can help. Read more about the types of bite therapy we offer or contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our periodontists.