The temporomandibular joints, called TMJ, are the joints and jaw muscles that make it possible to open and close your mouth. Located on each side of the head, your TMJ work together when you chew, speak or swallow and include muscles and ligaments as well as the jaw bone. They also control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward and side to side.
Each TMJ has a disc between the ball and socket. The disc cushions the load while enabling the jaw to open widely and rotate or glide. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.
Possible causes of TMJ disorders include arthritis, dislocation, injury, tooth and jaw misalignment, stress and teeth grinding.
Diagnosis is an important step before treatment. Part of the dental examination includes checking the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving.
Treatments for TMJ disorders
Try simple treatment before moving on to more involved treatment. This would include eating softer foods; avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails; modifying the pain with heat packs; and practicing relaxation techniques to control jaw tension, such as meditation or biofeedback.
If necessary for your symptoms, the following treatments may be advised: a night guard or bite plate to decrease clenching or grinding of teeth; exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles; and medications—for example, muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-anxiety drugs or anti-inflammatory medications.
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