The temporomandibular joints, abbreviated as TMJ, are the jaw muscles and joints which allow your mouth to open and close.
Found on each side of the head, your TMJ also includes muscles and ligaments along with the jaw bone which all work together whenever you eat, talk or swallow. Additionally, they allow your lower jaw to move forward, back and side-to-side.
Each TMJ has a disc between the ball and socket. The disc cushions the load while permitting the jaw to open widely and also slide or rotate. Any kind of issue that stops this sophisticated system of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones from functioning properly might produce an uncomfortable temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD.
Some of the possible sources of TMD:
- muscle injury
- misalignment of the teeth and jaw
- teeth grinding and anxiety
Proper diagnosis is a necessary step before the right treatment can be decided on. A component of the oral examination includes assessing the joints and muscles for tenderness, for clicking and popping, or for any difficulty moving in order to determine if a temporomandibular joint disorder is the problem.
There are a number of treatment options when it comes to TMJ disorders. Customized oral orthotic appliances, counseling and patient education, trigger point injections, and laser therapy are just some of the tools that can be used in TMD pain management. An orofacial pain specialist like Dr. Huff can help you find the treatment that is right for you.
For self-care options for easing the symptoms, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research offers the following tips.
- Chew softer foods
- Use an ice pack for inflamed joints and warm compresses for sore muscles
- Don’t do anything that resorts in excessive jaw movements (wide yawning, loud singing, chewing gum, etc.)
- Use relaxation techniques to help reduce your overall stress
- Gentle jaw stretching exercise if recommended
For more information on TMJ problems or TMD, visit our page on the topic. If you are suffering from headaches or pain in your face, jaw, or neck, have noticed clicking or popping in your jaw, are experienced limited movement in your jaw or occasional locking, consider making an appointment with Dr. Huff to see if TMD may be to blame.