What Is TMJ?
TMJ is the abbreviation for temporomandibular joint syndrome or disorder. These joints connect the lower jaw to the skull and allow the jaw to move. When the teeth, facial muscles, and temporomandibular joints are out of alignment, you can develop symptoms of TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome or disorder, also called TMD) such as jaw pain, headaches, swelling, clicking or popping in the joint, cracking, difficulty moving the jaw, ringing in the ears, or difficulty biting.
The causes of TMJ symptoms break down into three major categories:
- Muscle strain
- Bone and joint displacement
- Nerve pressure and pinching
These three basic causes are linked. When the muscles of the jaw are straining, they will pull on the jaw joints, causing displacement. The displaced jaw may help some muscles to relax, but it probably stresses others. The stressed muscles and displaced joints increase the risk or pressure or pinching of nerves running through the crowded area at the base of the skull. In response to nerve pain, you likely change your habits and chewing techniques.
Understanding TMJ Disorder
This video by a colleague of Dr. Siegel who has the same training, explains TMD in a very visual and fun way.
What Are The Symptoms of TMJ / TMD?
Sometimes TMJ/TMD is described as “the great imposter” because its symptoms are so diverse and wide-ranging.
TMJ/TMD symptoms include:
Diagnosis of TMJ disorder at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell is a highly technical process, but it is also painless and accurate. Many treatments for it fail because they do not address the source of the patient’s TMJ problem. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment approach that will successfully remedy every patient’s symptoms because every patient is different. While many patients suffer from TMJ disorder because of a problem with their bite, we can’t simply apply the same bite correction to each patient.
Every patient has a bite position that is physiologically correct for them. Using neuromuscular dentistry techniques and technology such as the J5 Myomonitor and the K-7 Evaluation computer, Dr. Siegel will analyze your current bite and then assess whether or not that bite is in line with your natural, neuromuscular bite position. He will be able to tell which of your muscles are working harder than others and can see in 3 dimensions, the path that your jaw travels as you open and close your mouth. This information is also vital to the proper treatment of your TMJ disorder.
We can also get detailed information about the state of your temporomandibular joints using cone beam computed tomography (CBCT). CBCT is a 3D imaging tool that can assess the exact position, shape, and density of bone in the joint and even give us some valuable information about relevant soft tissues. This advanced, powerful tool gives us information we can’t get other ways. This allows for more accurate TMJ diagnosis and better guidance for treatment.
This video describes the TMJ diagnosis process using neuromuscular dentistry.
TMJ Treatment Options
Most cases of TMJ are minor, transitory, and don’t require any treatment other than home care. First, switch to a soft diet and avoid other activities that stress your jaw, such as talking too long or too loud. Also be aware of other activities that stress your jaw, such as weightlifting, running, and other forms of exercise where you might clench your jaw or subject it to trauma. Take over-the-counter forms of ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) or naproxen (e.g. Aleve) that can reduce swelling as well as help control pain. Never exce