TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint which is the jaw joint. It is located just anterior to the ear and connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull. Problems with the joint, referred to as TMD or temporomandibular disorder, affect many people in the United States. TMD affects more women than men. TMD is most commonly caused by stress. Stress promotes the patient to unconsciously clench the teeth together usually at night. The pressure the clenching causes breaks down the cartilage surrounding the joint and over stimulates the facial muscles associated with opening and closing the mouth. Symptoms that this is occurring are pain followed by cracking sound when one opens his/her mouth, headaches, and receding gums. TMD is treated with a device called a nightguard that prevents patients from putting an exorbitant amount of pressure on their TMJ. This device is worn at night when the patient sleeps.
Signs and Symptoms
Sore or tight muscles of mastication (muscles used to chew)
Jaw locking open or closed
Clicking or popping of joint when opening or closing mouth
Limited opening of mouth
Pain when chewing
Palpate muscles of mastication (chewing muscles)
Palpate joint (check for clicking, popping, grating)
Joint Loading test
A TMJ screening is done routinely with check-up exam. We perform the complete TMJ exam on patients who suffer from TMD symptoms.
Treatment is decided upon on a case by case basis but may include one or more of the following:
Occlusal equilibration (adjusting bite) after a thorough occlusal evaluation