TMJ Disorders

TMJ Disorders (TMD) and Treatment Options

Patients suffering from TMJ disorder have varying degrees of the condition and will experience unique combinations of symptoms. Common complaints include:

  • TMJ headaches
  • neck pain
  • teeth grinding
  • ringing in ears (tinnitus)
  • facial pain
  • vision problems
  • ear aches
  • vertigo

Patients with TMD often grind their teeth (bruxism) to find a comfortable bite.

If you experience any one or more of these symptoms of TMJ disorder, call us TODAY for a consultation!

TMJ Disorder Symptoms and Causes

When a patient's jaw joints or jaw muscles are irritated, there can be deviation of the lower jaw to one side on opening. This is called mandibular opening deviation. For various reasons, the human face does not always grow symmetrically. Facial asymmetry can cause TMJ problems. Continual jaw muscle spasm can cause muscle shortening with limited opening and severe jaw pain.

TMJ Headaches

Headaches are commonly seen in TMD sufferers. The most common TMJ headache is located on the side of the head over the area of the temple. This is called a temporal headache and is often misdiagnosed as migraine.

Ear Problems

The temporomandibular joints are located just in front of the ears. Tenderness and deep pain in the TM joints and surrounding areas can also cause ear ache and decreased hearing. With time ringing in the ears (tinnitus) can occur. Eventually, the middle ear can be affected causing vertigo or dizziness. These problems along with combinations of other TMD symptoms can cause difficulty sleeping (insomnia). TMD sufferers often have pain in one or both of the jaw joints and TMJ pain is common. The jaw joints may have clicking and popping noises.

Teeth Grinding

Because of uncomfortable jaw joints, many patients clench and grind their teeth. Patients who grind their teeth may experience dental hot and cold sensitivity. The clenching and grinding can cause over development of the supporting jaw bone. Bone bumps that grow horizontally out into the cheeks, in the middle of the palate, and on the inside of the lower jaw are called torii. These patients often have multiple root canals as a result of their teeth dying from the constant teeth grinding pressure.

Other TMD Symptoms

The imbalance of a TMD patient's facial, chewing and neck muscles can cause difficulty swallowing. This is called dysphagia. Because of the instability of the jaw, head and neck, cervical problems are common. This can lead to occipital headaches located at the back of the head.

Bell's Palsy and Trigeminal Neuralgia can also be TMJ disorder symptoms.

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

The joint connects the mandible (the moving part of our head) to the skull (the non moving part). It's a ball and socket joint that has a piece of cartilage in between for smooth opening movements. When this cartilage gets damaged or worn, problems start to appear. There may be no symptoms, or a clicking sound in front of the ear, when the jaw is opened. For some, however, this can become very painful. TMD pain seems to affect more women than men, although both are affected. Symptoms include headache, muscle spasms, non specific jaw pain that usually radiates, inability to open wide, tiredness of the face and unexplained tooth wear and filling breakage.

Causes of TMJ Problems

Bruxism Appliance

Tension. One of the major causes for TMJ disorder is teeth grinding and clenching. Stress produces excess energy, which needs an outlet. This excess energy usually is dissipated via grinding, at night, or clenching during the day. Each produces extreme pressure on the muscles and the temporomandibular joint, ultimately resulting in the damage of the joint. Besides this wear facets, or worn areas on teeth caused by tooth on tooth contact, may start to appear, causing sensitivity in those teeth, especially during chewing. Tooth or filling breakage is common. The key is palliative treatment. Stress reduction is important, jaw exercises and biofeedback programs can be very effective. To protect the teeth a bruxism appliance may be recommended. This appliance can be worn at night or during the day when clenching occurs. It prevents tooth on tooth contact and prevents the force of the muscles to perform its isometric exercise during this time.

Parafunctional habits (biting habits). Parafunctional habits include fingernail biting, pencil chewing, ice crushing, etc. These activities put pressure on the TM joint, and also place the joint into unusual positions when force is applied. This can produce a myriad of symptoms, which can only be diminished via the removal of that habit.

Ill-fitting/worn dentures with loss of vertical support for the chewing muscles may result in muscle spasm causing facial pain, headaches, neck pain, etc. due to improper jaw function

Surgery. Accidents and arthritic changes can also cause TMJ problems. Surgery may sometimes be required to eliminate and alleviate the functional problems ,as well as the accompanying painful symptoms. Accidents can cause the TMJ capsule either to completely be pulled out of the ball and socket area or have adhesions form between the head and the capsular area, making it very difficult to move the mandible.