TMJ is the acronym for temporomandibular joint, which connects your lower jaw (the mandible) to your skull at the temporal bone. This joint controls many jaw functions, like chewing. If the chewing muscles or the joint itself are causing you pain you may have temporamandibular disorder, or TMD. TMD can be caused by many things: stress, continual clenching of the jaw muscles, teeth grinding, arthritis, anatomical abnormalities, muscle imbalances, injuries, etc.
- Pain when opening or closing mouth
- Difficulty chewing
- Limited or painful jaw opening
- Jaw becoming stuck open or closed
- Frequent or severe headaches
- Ear pain or ear stuffiness
- Clicking or popping sounds when opening your mouth
- Facial pain and headaches
Many of these symptoms can often be associated with other health problems, so only a medical professional can tell you if it is due to TMD. Teeth grinding is an especially problematic symptom because it can lead to further problems. Prolonged teeth grinding, or bruxism, can cause enamel to wear off teeth and expose dentin. This material is softer than enamel and more susceptible to decay. Sensitivity to hot and cold food or drink may also develop from excessive teeth grinding.
Some TMD symptoms may be alleviated by repositioning of the condyles in the TM joint space. Just as an orthopedist would reposition any other dislocated joint in the body to restore proper function, a dentist uses a correctly fabricated splint that fits between the upper and lower teeth to guide the lower jaw and thus the condyles forward to restore proper condyle position.
Some TMD symptoms may be alleviated by injecting Botulinum Toxin (Botox) into the muscles that clench your jaws together. There are many muscle borne trigger points for TMD and headaches that can be identified and may be treated effectively with Botox. Ask Dr. Katie about her own experience with Botox for tension headaches!