TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders represent a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a “clicking” sound in the area of your “jaw hinge”, you will be glad to know that these problems are now more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. If you are considering treatment for TMJ in North Bergen, Hackensack or Ridgefield, NJ, please call our office to schedule a consultation so that we may better answer your questions about the process.
Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment is important. No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and most treatment modalities will take time to be effective.
What is the TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint, better known as the TMJ, is the small joint located in front of the ear where the skull and the jawbone connect. The TMJ is composed of a “ball” (the condyle), “socket” (articular fossa), and interfacing tissue between the ball and the socket known as the articular disc (cartilage). This disc is made from strong, white cartilaginous tissue that does not have nerves or a blood supply. It prevents the two bones of the joint from touching each other (provides a cushion effect), thus avoiding wear on the bones themselves. At the rear of the joint, the articular disc (cartilage) attaches to the bilaminar zone (posterior disc attachment), which does contain nerves and blood vessels and can be quite sensitive. The front end of the disc is connected to a muscle that is attached to the condyle. This is the external pterygoid muscle that helps to open the mouth.
Trouble with Your Jaw?
TMJ disorders may develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to an injury or disease. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, grating noise when you open your mouth or difficulty in opening your mouth wide.
Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?
- Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
- Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
- Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
- Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
- Does stress make your clenching and pain worse
- Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
- Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat or yawn?
- Have you ever injured your neck, head or jaws
- Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
- Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
- Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
- Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?
The more times you answered “yes,” the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they are treated.
Diagnosis of TMJ Disorders
Diagnosis of TMJ disorders generally involves obtaining a comprehensive medical history, review of complaints and clinical examination. Generally x-rays of the jaws and jaw joints are obtained in the office. If more advanced imaging studies such as CT scans or MRI studies are required, appropriate referrals will be made directly through our office.
There are various treatment options available:
- Anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxing medications
- Physical therapy including ultrasound and electrical stimulation
- Oral appliances (bite plates)
- Biofeedback therapy
- Various surgical procedures