The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the temporal bone of your skull to your mandible, or jaw bone. It operates as both a hinging joint and a sliding joint. The parts of each bone that form the joint are protected by cartilage, and there is a small articular disc in the joint, absorbing shock and keeping the movement in the joint smooth. Jaw joint pain associated with a TMJ disorder can occur when this disc becomes eroded, dislodged, or the surrounding area becomes inflamed.
Dysfunction of the joint is often caused by chronic jaw clenching or teeth grinding (bruxism), but can also be brought on by sustaining a forceful blow to the jaw, or even arthritis. Often, though, the direct cause of TMJ dysfunction is unclear; many people habitually clench or grind their teeth, and never develop TMJ dysfunction.
TMJ dysfunction can result in jaw joint pain, headaches, migraines, and the misalignment of teeth whereby they don’t fit together when biting. If left untreated, it can go well beyond having a sore jaw, potentially leading to severe pain in the area, radiating in the ear and down the neck, and can lead to difficulty chewing, or even lockjaw, affecting the ability to eat and drink. Other symptoms include a clicking jaw, and tenderness in the area.
In some cases, if TMJ treatment is not sought, the pain can worsen to excruciating levels, and may require more serious medical intervention. In the most extreme cases, untreated TMJ dysfunction can lead to mental health concerns, such as depression and eating disorders, as a result of the pain itself, and its effect on the patient’s ability and/or desire to eat. There are even surgical solutions if pain does not dissipate through regular TMJ treatment plans.
In most cases, however, any pain associated with a TMJ disorder is temporary, and can be relieved through following professional medical advice. If you are experiencing jaw joint pain, jaw ache, or a clicking jaw, the best course of action is to seek medical advice - even if you do not have a habit of jaw clenching or teeth grinding. Luckily, TMJ treatment can successfully provide pain relief, and prevent the deterioration of a treatable condition. These treatments can include medications, physical exercises or an occlusal guard to cushion the occlusal stresses of clenching and grinding. Naturally, if your pain persists, or if the dysfunction in the TMJ joint has been left untreated for some time, the correct course of action for your specific case may vary amongst any of these options individually or in combination.
CoastWide Smile Dentalcare is one of the leading Sunshine Coast dental practices. Our experienced dentists can conduct an evaluation of any potential TMJ disorder and assist in finding a suitable path to getting appropriate treatment to help ease your symptoms. This can be either in ‘in-house’ or by accessing our extensive network of specialists on the Sunshine Coast.
The stressful nature of today’s society means that jaw clenching and teeth grinding are by no means rare phenomenons, and neither is TMJ dysfunction. Make an appointment with our affordable dentists, and you can be on your way to TMJ relief sooner rather than later.