What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)?
Symptoms and issues with the muscles and joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull are called “temporomandibular” and are commonly referred to as TMJ. These disorders are associated with pain and difficulty chewing.
A temporomandibular joint sits on each side of the human skill just in front of the ear. Physical stress on the structures around this joint, including the cartilage, muscles, adjacent ligaments, blood vessels, nerves, and teeth can all play a role in or be affected by TMJ.
Often, the cause of these issues is unknown, but may be related to a poor bite, orthodontic braces, stress, tooth grinding, poor posture, poor diet, insomnia, arthritis, bone fractures, dislocation, and structural birth defects.
Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
TMJ symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
● discomfort or actual pain while chewing, biting, and even speaking,
● clicking, popping, grating, and grinding sounds with jaw movement,
● an inability to completely open or close the mouth,
● dull, aching pain across the face with specific pain and tenderness in the jaw, and
● earache and / or headache.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
Often TMJ sufferers visit more than one physician to get an accurate diagnosis of their condition. Certainly a full dental exam is indicated with X-rays and other tests primarily to rule out conditions like ear infections, nerve-related issues, sinus problems, migraine or other stress-headache issues, and neuralgia’s.
Because the results of these physical exams are often completely normal, TMJ diagnoses are based largely on patient-reported symptomology. The initial treatments are normally aimed at behavior modification and symptom management and will include a regimen of gentle stretches or massage motions to relax the jaw muscles. This may require the assistance of a physical therapist to learn the correct techniques.
Certain actions are to be avoided like singing, yawning, and gum chewing. Moist hot and cold packs often provide relief as do appliances such as bite guards to stop unconscious habits like tooth grinding while asleep.
In the short-term, over-the-counter pain medications are used and often anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants are prescribed. In severe and difficult cases, Selective Nerve Root Injections, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) or Alpha-2-Macroglobulin (A2M) may be used. Rarely are surgical procedures warranted.
While a chronic and troublesome condition, most people with TMJ do find techniques that provide relief or that eliminate the problem completely.
Meet Our Neurologists
At Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles our neurologists specialize in the treatment and diagnosis of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJ. Dr. O’Connor, Dr. Jordan, and Dr. Chang diagnose and treat patients with TMJ and other facial pain disorders. If you have suffer from TMJ and need a specialist contact one of them to schedule an appointment 310-829-5968.