Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome, better known as TMJ is the chronic dislocation and subluxation of the mandible from the rest of the skull by the temporal bone where the two connect. This can happen while yawning, chewing, talking, biting, sustaining trauma, grinding teeth, or clenching of the jaw.
Symptoms of TMJ
Generally, the first sign of TMJ is Pain, facial, head, neck and jaw pain. This can range from minor twinges to severe debilitating pain that can make it difficult to eat and talk. initially, it is often mistaken as a toothache by many patients and is shrugged off or treated with an OTC analgesic like Oragel or Tyolonol. This might work to relieve the pain for a short amount of time and the pain might dissipate for a time but it will return.
Recognizing when to bring this to the attention of your doctor or Dentist is important. If you experience jaw pain for more than a day or two, it is prudent to consult a physician about this. Most doctors will tell you to consult a dentist unless you have a condition that will alarm them to look a little closer.
Some conditions that a patient can have that will pique a physicians interest and cause them to investigate further rather than refer the patient to a Dentist is Ehlers Danlos Syndrome or another connective tissue disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, or physical trauma. Physical trauma can include being hit, a fall, or some accident in which the face and surrounding area sustained damage.
Symptoms of TMJ are:
~Dislocation or Subluxation of Jaw
~Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
~Nasel and Facial Pain
~Inability to 'find bite'
~Clicking of Jaw
~Dizziness or Vertigo
~Chronic ENT Problems
The testing and scanning to be diagnosed with TMJ are pretty straight forward. Dental X-rays, a head MRI Scan, & a physical exam are usually the main avenues in diagnosing this condition. Ultrasound in rare cases to see the function of the jaw as it moves.
The physician, whether they be a Medical Doctor or a Dentist, either who are qualified to make the diagnosis will go over your patient history. Certain indicators within a patients history will be used to give a diagnosis. Some of these indicators include:
~A Connective Tissue Disorder such as Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
~Certain Types of Arthritis
The doctor will also do a physical exam which will include manual manipulation of the patient's jaw by gripping the jaw around where the mandible meets the temporal bone to see how the joint reacts to certain motions.
Prognosis and Treatment
The prognosis of a TMJ patient is good. Patent education leads to knowing what to avoid and that in turn leads to alleviating the symptoms. Some of the treatments that are used for TMJ is anti-inflammatories, avoiding chewing gum, chewing hard candy and anything that will put undue stress on the jaw. Also training oneself to keep the jaw slightly separated. This takes time and personal discipline.
A bite guard custom made by a certified dentist or oral surgeon to be worn at night is also a great option. This keeps the jaw in alignment and is a great option for patients who are prone to grinding and clenching their teeth in their sleep.
Eating softer foods is an option and reducing your stress is always good for your health. Although I know this is always easier said than done. It is important to talk to your doctor about all of your options. I have heard from multiple sources that the least invasive option tends to be the best option. Keep that in mind when you are considering your options.