TMJ is the abbreviation of Temporo-mandibular Joint, which is the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull. Every human has one of these joints on each side of the head, somewhere around the ear. Anything that you do to move your jaw requires these joints to function properly. That means you can’t eat, talk, or even smile and frown without functioning TMJ. Place your fingers in front of or inside the ear canals, try opening and closing your mouth to detect the movement of TMJ.
TMJ is a “loose-fitting”, rotating and sliding joint with a fibrocartilage covered, football shaped ball (condyle), fibrous pad (disc), fibrocartilage lined socket (fossa), ligaments, tendons, blood vessels and nerves. The disc functions as a moving shock absorber and stabilizer between the condyle and fossa. As the jaw opens, normally the condyle first rotates and then slides forward within the fossa with the disc between the condyle and the fossa. In normal, healthy joint, the condyle is positioned in the front lower portion of the fossa and the dis moves forward and backward together with the condyle. The area behind the condyle and in front of the ear is full of blood vessels and nerve terminals, which causes TMJ pains when compressed by a condyle that moves too far back during mouth closing.
The muscles of mastication (jaw muscles) attach to the mandible (lower jaw), maxilla (upper jaw), skull and neck. The muscles of mastication open, close, protrude and laterally move the jaw, enabling you to talk, chew, and swallow. The supporting muscles of mastication (neck and shoulder girdle muscles) stabilize the skull on the neck during jaw function. Dysfunction or spasm of these muscles is an important cause for TMD.
TMD (TMJ disorder) is a series of signs and symptoms associated with the Temporal mandibular joints, which include:
Jaw joint pain
Jaw joint noise or clicking
Limited mouth opening
Ringing in the ear
Clenching or grinding
Tingling of the fingertips
Hot and cold sensitivity of teeth
Nervousness or insomnia
Some well-informed health care provider may also have suggested that the pain might be related to a "bad bite" and may have suggested that you see your dentist. However, not every general dentist recognizes and treats TMJ dysfunction. Only specially-trained and qualified dentists can help you with your TMJ-related problems.
A specially-trained and experienced dentist can help to diagnose and measure the muscle spasm and joint damage. He can begin the treatment of TMJ disorder by repositioning the lower jaw with a carefully fitted plastic bite splint to allow the damaged joints to heal.This process generally takes about 4-6 months. After that, the lower jaw must be kept at this right position for the long-lasting health of the joints.
A few treatment options include
Crown, bridge, or onlay treatment;
Partial denture, or overlay denture;
New complete denture for edentulous patient.
Dr. Ming Zhao, our family and general dentist at Temecula California, has obtained advanced training on diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders. We are here to help!